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Our Mutual Friend

by Charles Dickens

April, 1997  [Etext #883]
[Date last updated: April 16, 2006]


Project Gutenberg Etext of Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens
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Prepared by:
Donald Lainson
charlie@idirect.com





OUR MUTUAL FRIEND

Charles Dickens



CONTENTS



Book the First

THE CUP AND THE LIP


1. ON THE LOOK OUT
2. THE MAN FROM SOMEWHERE
3. ANOTHER MAN
4. THE R. WILFER FAMILY
5. BOFFIN'S BOWER
6. CUT ADRIFT
7. MR WEGG LOOKS AFTER HIMSELF
8. MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION
9. MR AND MRS BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION
10. A MARRIAGE CONTRACT
11. PODSNAPPERY
12. THE SWEAT OF AN HONEST MAN'S BROW
13. TRACKING THE BIRD OF PREY
14. THE BIRD OF PREY BROUGHT DOWN
15. TWO NEW SERVANTS
16. MINDERS AND RE-MINDERS
17. A DISMAL SWAMP



Book the Second

BIRDS OF A FEATHER


1. OF AN EDUCATIONAL CHARACTER
2. STILL EDUCATIONAL
3. A PIECE OF WORK
4. CUPID PROMPTED
5. MERCURY PROMPTING
6. A RIDDLE WITHOUT AN ANSWER
7. IN WHICH A FRIENDLY MOVE IS ORIGINATED
8. IN WHICH AN INNOCENT ELOPEMENT OCCURS
9. IN WHICH THE ORPHAN MAKES HIS WILL
10. A SUCCESSOR
11. SOME AFFAIRS OF THE HEART
12. MORE BIRDS OF PREY
13. A SOLO AND A DUETT
14. STRONG OF PURPOSE
15. THE WHOLE CASE SO FAR
16. AN ANNIVERSARY OCCASION



Book the Third

A LONG LANE


1. LODGERS IN QUEER STREET
2. A RESPECTED FRIEND IN A NEW ASPECT
3. THE SAME RESPECTED FRIEND IN MORE ASPECTS THAN ONE
4. A HAPPY RETURN OF THE DAY
5. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO BAD COMPANY
6. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN FALLS INTO WORSE COMPANY
7. THE FRIENDLY MOVE TAKES UP A STRONG POSITION
8. THE END OF A LONG JOURNEY
9. SOMEBODY BECOMES THE SUBJECT OF A PREDICTION
10. SCOUTS OUT
11. IN THE DARK
12. MEANING MISCHIEF
13. GIVE A DOG A BAD NAME, AND HANG HIM
14. MR WEGG PREPARES A GRINDSTONE FOR MR BOFFIN'S NOSE
15. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN AT HIS WORST
16. THE FEAST OF THE THREE HOBGOBLINS
17. A SOCIAL CHORUS



Book the Fourth

A TURNING


1. SETTING TRAPS
2. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN RISES A LITTLE
3. THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN SINKS AGAIN
4. A RUNAWAY MATCH
5. CONCERNING THE MENDICANT'S BRIDE
6. A CRY FOR HELP
7. BETTER TO BE ABEL THAN CAIN
8. A FEW GRAINS OF PEPPER
9. TWO PLACES VACATED
10. THE DOLLS' DRESSMAKER DISCOVERS A WORD
11. EFFECT IS GIVEN TO THE DOLLS' DRESSMAKER'S DISCOVERY
12. THE PASSING SHADOW
13. SHOWING HOW THE GOLDEN DUSTMAN HELPED TO SCATTER DUST
14. CHECKMATE TO THE FRIENDLY MOVE
15. WHAT WAS CAUGHT IN THE TRAPS THAT WERE SET
16. PERSONS AND THINGS IN GENERAL
17. THE VOICE OF SOCIETY


POSTSCRIPT, IN LIEU OF PREFACE




BOOK THE FIRST




THE CUP AND THE LIP



Chapter 1

ON THE LOOK OUT


In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no
need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance,
with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark
bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an
autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged
grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or
twenty, sufficiently like him to be recognizable as his daughter.
The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with
the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his
waistband, kept an eager look out.  He had no net, hook, or line,
and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a
sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty
boathook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his
boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for delivery, and
he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to
what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent
and searching gaze.  The tide, which had turned an hour before,
was running down, and his eyes watched every little race and eddy
in its broad sweep, as the boat made slight head-way against it, or
drove stern foremost before it, according as he directed his
daughter by a movement of his head.  She watched his face as
earnestly as he watched the river.  But, in the intensity of her look
there was a touch of dread or horror.

Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the surface, by reason
of the slime and ooze with which it was covered, and its sodden
state, this boat and the two figures in it obviously were doing
something that they often did, and were seeking what they often
sought.  Half savage as the man showed, with no covering on his
matted head, with his brown arms bare to between the elbow and
the shoulder, with the loose knot of a looser kerchief lying low on
his bare breast in a wilderness of beard and whisker, with such
dress as he wore seeming to be made out of the mud that begrimed
his boat, still there was a business-like usage in his steady gaze.
So with every lithe action of the girl, with every turn of her wrist,
perhaps most of all with her look of dread or horror; they were
things of usage.

'Keep her out, Lizzie.  Tide runs strong here.  Keep her well afore
the sweep of it.'

Trusting to the girl's skill and making no use of the rudder, he eyed
the coming tide with an absorbed attention.  So the girl eyed him.
But, it happened now, that a slant of light from the setting sun
glanced into the bottom of the boat, and, touching a rotten stain
there which bore some resemblance to the outline of a muffled
human form, coloured it as though with diluted blood.  This caught
the girl's eye, and she shivered.

'What ails you?' said the man, immediately aware of it, though so
intent on the advancing waters; 'I see nothing afloat.'

The red light was gone, the shudder was gone, and his gaze, which
had come back to the boat for a moment, travelled away again.
Wheresoever the strong tide met with an impediment, his gaze
paused for an instant.  At every mooring-chain and rope, at every
stationery boat or barge that split the current into a broad-
arrowhead, at the offsets from the piers of Southwark Bridge, at the
paddles of the river steamboats as they beat the filthy water, at the
floating logs of timber lashed together lying off certain wharves,
his shining eyes darted a hungry look.  After a darkening hour or
so, suddenly the rudder-lines tightened in his hold, and he steered
hard towards the Surrey shore.

Always watching his face, the girl instantly answered to the action
in her sculling; presently the boat swung round, quivered as from a
sudden jerk, and the upper half of the man was stretched out over
the stern.

The girl pulled the hood of a cloak she wore, over her head and
over her face, and, looking backward so that the front folds of this
hood were turned down the river, kept the boat in that direction
going before the tide.  Until now, the boat had barely held her own,
and had hovered about one spot; but now, the banks changed
swiftly, and the deepening shadows and the kindling lights of
London Bridge were passed, and the tiers of shipping lay on either
hand.

It was not until now that the upper half of the man came back into
the boat.  His arms were wet and dirty, and he washed them over
the side.  In his right hand he held something, and he washed that
in the river too.  It was money.  He chinked it once, and he blew
upon it once, and he spat upon it once,--'for luck,' he hoarsely said
--before he put it in his pocket.

'Lizzie!'

The girl turned her face towards him with a start, and rowed in
silence.  Her face was very pale.  He was a hook-nosed man, and
with that and his bright eyes and his ruffled head, bore a certain
likeness to a roused bird of prey.

'Take that thing off your face.'

She put it back.

'Here! and give me hold of the sculls.  I'll take the rest of the spell.'

'No, no, father!  No!  I can't indeed.  Father!--I cannot sit so near it!'

He was moving towards her to change places, but her terrified
expostulation stopped him and he resumed his seat.

'What hurt can it do you?'

'None, none.  But I cannot bear it.'

'It's my belief you hate the sight of the very river.'

'I--I do not like it, father.'

'As if it wasn't your living!  As if it wasn't meat and drink to you!'

At these latter words the girl shivered again, and for a moment
paused in her rowing, seeming to turn deadly faint.  It escaped his
attention, for he was glancing over the stern at something the boat
had in tow.

'How can you be so thankless to your best friend, Lizzie?  The very
fire that warmed you when you were a babby, was picked out of
the river alongside the coal barges.  The very basket that you slept
in, the tide washed ashore.  The very rockers that I put it upon to
make a cradle of it, I cut out of a piece of wood that drifted from
some ship or another.'

Lizzie took her right hand from the scull it held, and touched her
lips with it, and for a moment held it out lovingly towards him:
then, without speaking, she resumed her rowing, as another boat of
similar appearance, though in rather better trim, came out from a
dark place and dropped softly alongside.

'In luck again, Gaffer?' said a man with a squinting leer, who
sculled her and who was alone, 'I know'd you was in luck again, by
your wake as you come down.'

'Ah!' replied the other, drily.  'So you're out, are you?'

'Yes, pardner.'

There was now a tender yellow moonlight on the river, and the
new comer, keeping half his boat's length astern of the other boat
looked hard at its track.

'I says to myself,' he went on, 'directly you hove in view, yonder's
Gaffer, and in luck again, by George if he ain't!  Scull it is,
pardner--don't fret yourself--I didn't touch him.'  This was in
answer to a quick impatient movement on the part of Gaffer: the
speaker at the same time unshipping his scull on that side, and
laying his hand on the gunwale of Gaffer's boat and holding to it.

'He's had touches enough not to want no more, as well as I make
him out, Gaffer!  Been a knocking about with a pretty many tides,
ain't he pardner?  Such is my out-of-luck ways, you see!  He must
have passed me when he went up last time, for I was on the
lookout below bridge here.  I a'most think you're like the wulturs,
pardner, and scent 'em out.'

He spoke in a dropped voice, and with more than one glance at
Lizzie who had pulled on her hood again.  Both men then looked
with a weird unholy interest in the wake of Gaffer's boat.

'Easy does it, betwixt us.  Shall I take him aboard, pardner?'

'No,' said the other.  In so surly a tone that the man, after a blank
stare, acknowledged it with the retort:

'--Arn't been eating nothing as has disagreed with you, have you,
pardner?'

'Why, yes, I have,' said Gaffer.  'I have been swallowing too much
of that word, Pardner.  I am no pardner of yours.'

'Since when was you no pardner of mine, Gaffer Hexam Esquire?'

'Since you was accused of robbing a man.  Accused of robbing a
live man!' said Gaffer, with great indignation.

'And what if I had been accused of robbing a dead man, Gaffer?'

'You COULDN'T do it.'

'Couldn't you, Gaffer?'

'No.  Has a dead man any use for money?  Is it possible for a dead
man to have money?  What world does a dead man belong to?
'Tother world.  What world does money belong to?  This world.
How can money be a corpse's?  Can a corpse own it, want it, spend
it, claim it, miss it?  Don't try to go confounding the rights and
wrongs of things in that way.  But it's worthy of the sneaking spirit
that robs a live man.'

'I'll tell you what it is--.'

'No you won't.  I'll tell you what it is.  You got off with a short time
of it for putting you're hand in the pocket of a sailor, a live sailor.
Make the most of it and think yourself lucky, but don't think after
that to come over ME with your pardners.  We have worked
together in time past, but we work together no more in time present
nor yet future.  Let go.  Cast off!'

'Gaffer!  If you think to get rid of me this way--.'

'If I don't get rid of you this way, I'll try another, and chop you over
the fingers with the stretcher, or take a pick at your head with the
boat-hook.  Cast off!  Pull you, Lizzie.  Pull home, since you won't
let your father pull.'

Lizzie shot ahead, and the other boat fell astern.  Lizzie's father,
composing himself into the easy attitude of one who had asserted
the high moralities and taken an unassailable position, slowly
lighted a pipe, and smoked, and took a survey of what he had in
tow.  What he had in tow, lunged itself at him sometimes in an
awful manner when the boat was checked, and sometimes seemed
to try to wrench itself away, though for the most part it followed
submissively.  A neophyte might have fancied that the ripples
passing over it were dreadfully like faint changes of expression on
a sightless face; but Gaffer was no neophyte and had no fancies.



Chapter 2

THE MAN FROM SOMEWHERE


Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house
in a bran-new quarter of London.  Everything about the Veneerings
was spick and span new.  All their furniture was new, all their
friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new,
their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses were
new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were
as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a
bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he
would have come home in matting from the Pantechnicon, without
a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of his head.

For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the
new coat of arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and
upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of
high varnish and polish.  And what was observable in the
furniture, was observable in the Veneerings--the surface smelt a
little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.

There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon
easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street,
Saint James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a
source of blind confusion.  The name of this article was Twemlow.
Being first cousin to Lord Snigsworth, he was in frequent
requisition, and at many houses might be said to represent the
dining-table in its normal state.  Mr and Mrs Veneering, for
example, arranging a dinner, habitually started with Twemlow,
and then put leaves in him, or added guests to him.  Sometimes,
the table consisted of Twemlow and half a dozen leaves;
sometimes, of Twemlow and a dozen leaves; sometimes, Twemlow
was pulled out to his utmost extent of twenty leaves.  Mr and Mrs
Veneering on occasions of ceremony faced each other in the centre
of the board, and thus the parallel still held; for, it always
happened that the more Twemlow was pulled out, the further he
found himself from the center, and nearer to the sideboard at one
end of the room, or the window-curtains at the other.

But, it was not this which steeped the feeble soul of Twemlow in
confusion.  This he was used to, and could take soundings of.  The
abyss to which he could find no bottom, and from which started
forth the engrossing and ever-swelling difficulty of his life, was the
insoluble question whether he was Veneering's oldest friend, or
newest friend.  To the excogitation of this problem, the harmless
gentleman had devoted many anxious hours, both in his lodgings
over the livery stable-yard, and in the cold gloom, favourable to
meditation, of Saint James's Square.  Thus.  Twemlow had first
known Veneering at his club, where Veneering then knew nobody
but the man who made them known to one another, who seemed to
be the most intimate friend he had in the world, and whom he had
known two days--the bond of union between their souls, the
nefarious conduct of the committee respecting the cookery of a
fillet of veal, having been accidentally cemented at that date.
Immediately upon this, Twemlow received an invitation to dine
with Veneering, and dined: the man being of the party.
Immediately upon that, Twemlow received an invitation to dine
with the man, and dined: Veneering being of the party.  At the
man's were a Member, an Engineer, a Payer-off of the National
Debt, a Poem on Shakespeare, a Grievance, and a Public Office,
who all seem to be utter strangers to Veneering.  And yet
immediately after that, Twemlow received an invitation to dine at
Veneerings, expressly to meet the Member, the Engineer, the
Payer-off of the National Debt, the Poem on Shakespeare, the
Grievance, and the Public Office, and, dining, discovered that all of
them were the most intimate friends Veneering had in the world,
and that the wives of all of them (who were all there) were the
objects of Mrs Veneering's most devoted affection and tender
confidence.

Thus it had come about, that Mr Twemlow had said to himself in
his lodgings, with his hand to his forehead: 'I must not think of
this.  This is enough to soften any man's brain,'--and yet was
always thinking of it, and could never form a conclusion.

This evening the Veneerings give a banquet.  Eleven leaves in the
Twemlow; fourteen in company all told.  Four pigeon-breasted
retainers in plain clothes stand in line in the hall.  A fifth retainer,
proceeding up the staircase with a mournful air--as who should
say, 'Here is another wretched creature come to dinner; such is
life!'--announces, 'Mis-ter Twemlow!'

Mrs Veneering welcomes her sweet Mr Twemlow.  Mr Veneering
welcomes his dear Twemlow.  Mrs Veneering does not expect that
Mr Twemlow can in nature care much for such insipid things as
babies, but so old a friend must please to look at baby.  'Ah!  You
will know the friend of your family better, Tootleums,' says Mr
Veneering, nodding emotionally at that new article, 'when you
begin to take notice.'  He then begs to make his dear Twemlow
known to his two friends, Mr Boots and Mr Brewer--and clearly
has no distinct idea which is which.

But now a fearful circumstance occurs.

'Mis-ter and Mis-sus Podsnap!'

'My dear,' says Mr Veneering to Mrs Veneering, with an air of
much friendly interest, while the door stands open, 'the Podsnaps.'

A too, too smiling large man, with a fatal freshness on him,
appearing with his wife, instantly deserts his wife and darts at
Twemlow with:

'How do you do?  So glad to know you.  Charming house you have
here.  I hope we are not late.  So glad of the opportunity, I am sure!'

When the first shock fell upon him, Twemlow twice skipped back
in his neat little shoes and his neat little silk stockings of a bygone
fashion, as if impelled to leap over a sofa behind him; but the large
man closed with him and proved too strong.

'Let me,' says the large man, trying to attract the attention of his
wife in the distance, 'have the pleasure of presenting Mrs Podsnap
to her host.  She will be,' in his fatal freshness he seems to find
perpetual verdure and eternal youth in the phrase, 'she will be so
glad of the opportunity, I am sure!'

In the meantime, Mrs Podsnap, unable to originate a mistake on
her own account, because Mrs Veneering is the only other lady
there, does her best in the way of handsomely supporting her
husband's, by looking towards Mr Twemlow with a plaintive
countenance and remarking to Mrs Veneering in a feeling manner,
firstly, that she fears he has been rather bilious of late, and,
secondly, that the baby is already very like him.

It is questionable whether any man quite relishes being mistaken
for any other man; but, Mr Veneering having this very evening set
up the shirt-front of the young Antinous in new worked cambric
just come home, is not at all complimented by being supposed to
be Twemlow, who is dry and weazen and some thirty years older.
Mrs Veneering equally resents the imputation of being the wife of
Twemlow.  As to Twemlow, he is so sensible of being a much
better bred man than Veneering, that he considers the large man an
offensive ass.

In this complicated dilemma, Mr Veneering approaches the large
man with extended hand and, smilingly assures that incorrigible
personage that he is delighted to see him: who in his fatal
freshness instantly replies:

'Thank you.  I am ashamed to say that I cannot at this moment
recall where we met, but I am so glad of this opportunity, I am
sure!'

Then pouncing upon Twemlow, who holds back with all his feeble
might, he is haling him off to present him, as Veneering, to Mrs
Podsnap, when the arrival of more guests unravels the mistake.
Whereupon, having re-shaken hands with Veneering as Veneering,
he re-shakes hands with Twemlow as Twemlow, and winds it all
up to his own perfect satisfaction by saying to the last-named,
'Ridiculous opportunity--but so glad of it, I am sure!'

Now, Twemlow having undergone this terrific experience, having
likewise noted the fusion of Boots in Brewer and Brewer in Boots,
and having further observed that of the remaining seven guests
four discrete characters enter with wandering eyes and wholly
declined to commit themselves as to which is Veneering, until
Veneering has them in his grasp;--Twemlow having profited by
these studies, finds his brain wholesomely hardening as he
approaches the conclusion that he really is Veneering's oldest
friend, when his brain softens again and all is lost, through his
eyes encountering Veneering and the large man linked together as
twin brothers in the back drawing-room near the conservatory
door, and through his ears informing him in the tones of Mrs
Veneering that the same large man is to be baby's godfather.

'Dinner is on the table!'

Thus the melancholy retainer, as who should say, 'Come down and
be poisoned, ye unhappy children of men!'

Twemlow, having no lady assigned him, goes down in the rear,
with his hand to his forehead.  Boots and Brewer, thinking him
indisposed, whisper, 'Man faint.  Had no lunch.'  But he is only
stunned by the unvanquishable difficulty of his existence.

Revived by soup, Twemlow discourses mildly of the Court
Circular with Boots and Brewer.  Is appealed to, at the fish stage of
the banquet, by Veneering, on the disputed question whether his
cousin Lord Snigsworth is in or out of town?  Gives it that his
cousin is out of town.  'At Snigsworthy Park?' Veneering inquires.
'At Snigsworthy,' Twemlow rejoins.  Boots and Brewer regard this
as a man to be cultivated; and Veneering is clear that he is a
renumerative article.  Meantime the retainer goes round, like a
gloomy Analytical Chemist: always seeming to say, after 'Chablis,
sir?'--'You wouldn't if you knew what it's made of.'

The great looking-glass above the sideboard, reflects the table and
the company.  Reflects the new Veneering crest, in gold and eke in
silver, frosted and also thawed, a camel of all work.  The Heralds'
College found out a Crusading ancestor for Veneering who bore a
camel on his shield (or might have done it if he had thought of it),
and a caravan of camels take charge of the fruits and flowers and
candles, and kneel down be loaded with the salt.  Reflects
Veneering; forty, wavy-haired, dark, tending to corpulence, sly,
mysterious, filmy--a kind of sufficiently well-looking veiled-
prophet, not prophesying.  Reflects Mrs Veneering; fair, aquiline-
nosed and fingered, not so much light hair as she might have,
gorgeous in raiment and jewels, enthusiastic,  propitiatory,
conscious that a corner of her husband's veil is over herself.
Reflects Podsnap; prosperously feeding, two little light-coloured
wiry wings, one on either side of his else bald head, looking as like
his hairbrushes as his hair, dissolving view of red beads on his
forehead, large allowance of crumpled shirt-collar up behind.
Reflects Mrs Podsnap; fine woman for Professor Owen, quantity of
bone, neck and nostrils like a rocking-horse, hard features,
majestic head-dress in which Podsnap has hung golden offerings.
Reflects Twemlow; grey, dry, polite, susceptible to east wind,
First-Gentleman-in-Europe collar and cravat, cheeks drawn in as if
he had made a great effort to retire into himself some years ago,
and had got so far and had never got any farther.  Reflects mature
young lady; raven locks, and complexion that lights up well when
well powdered--as it is--carrying on considerably in the captivation
of mature young gentleman; with too much nose in his face, too
much ginger in his whiskers, too much torso in his waistcoat, too
much sparkle in his studs, his eyes, his buttons, his talk, and his
teeth.  Reflects charming old Lady Tippins on Veneering's right;
with an immense obtuse drab oblong face, like a face in a
tablespoon, and a dyed Long Walk up the top of her head, as a
convenient public approach to the bunch of false hair behind,
pleased to patronize Mrs Veneering opposite, who is pleased to be
patronized.  Reflects a certain 'Mortimer', another of Veneering's
oldest friends; who never was in the house before, and appears not
to want to come again, who sits disconsolate on Mrs Veneering's
left, and who was inveigled by Lady Tippins (a friend of his
boyhood) to come to these people's and talk, and who won't talk.
Reflects Eugene, friend of Mortimer; buried alive in the back of his
chair, behind a shoulder--with a powder-epaulette on it--of the
mature young lady, and gloomily resorting to the champagne
chalice whenever proffered by the Analytical Chemist.  Lastly, the
looking-glass reflects Boots and Brewer, and two other stuffed
Buffers interposed between the rest of the company and possible
accidents.

The Veneering dinners are excellent dinners--or new people
wouldn't come--and all goes well.  Notably, Lady Tippins has
made a series of experiments on her digestive functions, so
extremely complicated and daring, that if they could be published
with their results it might benefit the human race.  Having taken in
provisions from all parts of the world, this hardy old cruiser has
last touched at the North Pole, when, as the ice-plates are being
removed, the following words fall from her:

'I assure you, my dear Veneering--'

(Poor Twemlow's hand approaches his forehead, for it would seem
now, that Lady Tippins is going to be the oldest friend.)

'I assure you, my dear Veneering, that it is the oddest affair!  Like
the advertising people, I don't ask you to trust me, without offering
a respectable reference.  Mortimer there, is my reference, and
knows all about it.'

Mortimer raises his drooping eyelids, and slightly opens his
mouth.  But a faint smile, expressive of  'What's the use!' passes
over his face, and he drops his eyelids and shuts his mouth.

'Now, Mortimer,' says Lady Tippins, rapping the sticks of her
closed green fan upon the knuckles of her left hand--which is
particularly rich in knuckles, 'I insist upon your telling all that is to
be told about the man from Jamaica.'

'Give you my honour I never heard of any man from Jamaica,
except the man who was a brother,' replies Mortimer.

'Tobago, then.'

'Nor yet from Tobago.'

'Except,' Eugene strikes in: so unexpectedly that the mature young
lady, who has forgotten all about him, with a start takes the
epaulette out of his way: 'except our friend who long lived on rice-
pudding and isinglass, till at length to his something or other, his
physician said something else, and a leg of mutton somehow ended
in daygo.'

A reviving impression goes round the table that Eugene is coming
out.  An unfulfilled impression, for he goes in again.

'Now, my dear Mrs Veneering,' quoth Lady Tippins, I appeal to
you whether this is not the basest conduct ever known in this
world?  I carry my lovers about, two or three at a time, on
condition that they are very obedient and devoted; and here is my
oldest lover-in-chief, the head of all my slaves, throwing off his
allegiance before company!  And here is another of my lovers, a
rough Cymon at present certainly, but of whom I had most hopeful
expectations as to his turning out well in course of time, pretending
that he can't remember his nursery rhymes!  On purpose to annoy
me, for he knows how I doat upon them!'

A grisly little fiction concerning her lovers is Lady Tippins's point.
She is always attended by a lover or two, and she keeps a little list
of her lovers, and she is always booking a new lover, or striking
out an old lover, or putting a lover in her black list, or promoting a
lover to her blue list, or adding up her lovers, or otherwise posting
her book.  Mrs Veneering is charmed by the humour, and so is
Veneering.  Perhaps it is enhanced by a certain yellow play in Lady
Tippins's throat, like the legs of scratching poultry.

'I banish the false wretch from this moment, and I strike him out of
my Cupidon (my name for my Ledger, my dear,) this very night.
But I am resolved to have the account of the man from Somewhere,
and I beg you to elicit it for me, my love,' to Mrs Veneering, 'as I
have lost my own influence.  Oh, you perjured man!'  This to
Mortimer, with a rattle of her fan.

'We are all very much interested in the man from Somewhere,'
Veneering observes.

Then the four Buffers, taking heart of grace all four at once, say:

'Deeply interested!'

'Quite excited!'

'Dramatic!'

'Man from Nowhere, perhaps!'

And then Mrs Veneering--for the Lady Tippins's winning wiles are
contagious--folds her hands in the manner of a supplicating child,
turns to her left neighbour, and says, 'Tease!  Pay!  Man from
Tumwhere!'  At which the four Buffers, again mysteriously moved
all four at once, explain, 'You can't resist!'

'Upon my life,' says Mortimer languidly, 'I find it immensely
embarrassing to have the eyes of Europe upon me to this extent,
and my only consolation is that you will all of you execrate Lady
Tippins in your secret hearts when you find, as you inevitably will,
the man from Somewhere a bore.  Sorry to destroy romance by
fixing him with a local habitation, but he comes from the place, the
name of which escapes me, but will suggest itself to everybody
else here, where they make the wine.'

Eugene suggests 'Day and Martin's.'

'No, not that place,' returns the unmoved Mortimer, 'that's where
they make the Port.  My man comes from the country where they
make the Cape Wine.  But look here, old fellow; its not at all
statistical and it's rather odd.'

It is always noticeable at the table of the Veneerings, that no man
troubles himself much about the Veneerings themselves, and that
any one who has anything to tell, generally tells it to anybody else
in preference.

'The man,' Mortimer goes on, addressing Eugene, 'whose name is
Harmon, was only son of a tremendous old rascal who made his
money by Dust.'

'Red velveteens and a bell?' the gloomy Eugene inquires.

'And a ladder and basket if you like.  By which means, or by
others, he grew rich as a Dust Contractor, and lived in a hollow in
a hilly country entirely composed of Dust.  On his own small estate
the growling old vagabond threw up his own mountain range, like
an old volcano, and its geological formation was Dust.  Coal-dust,
vegetable-dust, bone-dust, crockery dust, rough dust and sifted
dust,--all manner of Dust.'

A passing remembrance of Mrs Veneering, here induces Mortimer
to address his next half-dozen words to her; after which he
wanders away again, tries Twemlow and finds he doesn't answer,
ultimately takes up with the Buffers who receive him
enthusiastically.

'The moral being--I believe that's the right expression--of this
exemplary person, derived its highest gratification from
anathematizing his nearest relations and turning them out of doors.
Having begun (as was natural) by rendering these attentions to the
wife of his bosom, he next found himself at leisure to bestow a
similar recognition on the claims of his daughter.  He chose a
husband for her, entirely to his own satisfaction and not in the least
to hers, and proceeded to settle upon her, as her marriage portion, I
don't know how much Dust, but something immense.  At this
stage of the affair the poor girl respectfully intimated that she was
secretly engaged to that popular character whom the novelists and
versifiers call Another, and that such a marriage would make Dust
of her heart and Dust of her life--in short, would set her up, on a
very extensive scale, in her father's business.  Immediately, the
venerable parent--on a cold winter's night, it is said--
anathematized and turned her out.'

Here, the Analytical Chemist (who has evidently formed a very low
opinion of Mortimer's story) concedes a little claret to the Buffers;
who, again mysteriously moved all four at once, screw it slowly
into themselves with a peculiar twist of enjoyment, as they cry in
chorus, 'Pray go on.'

'The pecuniary resources of Another were, as they usually are, of a
very limited nature.  I believe I am not using too strong an
expression when I say that Another was hard up.  However, he
married the young lady, and they lived in a humble dwelling,
probably possessing a porch ornamented with honeysuckle and
woodbine twining, until she died.  I must refer you to the Registrar
of the District in which the humble dwelling was situated, for the
certified cause of death; but early sorrow and anxiety may have had
to do with it, though they may not appear in the ruled pages and
printed forms.  Indisputably this was the case with Another, for he
was so cut up by the loss of his young wife that if he outlived her a
year it was as much as he did.'

There is that in the indolent Mortimer, which seems to hint that if
good society might on any account allow itself to be impressible,
he, one of good society, might have the weakness to be impressed
by what he here relates.  It is hidden with great pains, but it is in
him.  The gloomy Eugene too, is not without some kindred touch;
for, when that appalling Lady Tippins declares that if Another had
survived, he should have gone down at the head of her list of
lovers--and also when the mature young lady shrugs her epaulettes,
and laughs at some private and confidential comment from the
mature young gentleman--his gloom deepens to that degree that he
trifles quite ferociously with his dessert-knife.

Mortimer proceeds.

'We must now return, as novelists say, and as we all wish they
wouldn't, to the man from Somewhere.  Being a boy of fourteen,
cheaply educated at Brussels when his sister's expulsion befell, it
was some little time before he heard of it--probably from herself,
for the mother was dead; but that I don't know.  Instantly, he
absconded, and came over here.  He must have been a boy of spirit
and resource, to get here on a stopped allowance of five sous a
week; but he did it somehow, and he burst in on his father, and
pleaded his sister's cause.  Venerable parent promptly resorts to
anathematization, and turns him out.  Shocked and terrified boy
takes flight, seeks his fortune, gets aboard ship, ultimately turns up
on dry land among the Cape wine: small proprietor, farmer,
grower--whatever you like to call it.'

At this juncture, shuffling is heard in the hall, and tapping is heard
at the dining-room door.  Analytical Chemist goes to the door,
confers angrily with unseen tapper, appears to become mollified by
descrying reason in the tapping, and goes out.

'So he was discovered, only the other day, after having been
expatriated about fourteen years.'

A Buffer, suddenly astounding the other three, by detaching
himself, and asserting individuality, inquires: 'How discovered,
and why?'

'Ah!  To be sure.  Thank you for reminding me.  Venerable parent
dies.'

Same Buffer, emboldened by success, says: 'When?'

'The other day.  Ten or twelve months ago.'

Same Buffer inquires with smartness, 'What of?'  But herein
perishes a melancholy example; being regarded by the three other
Buffers with a stony stare, and attracting no further attention from
any mortal.

'Venerable parent,' Mortimer repeats with a passing remembrance
that there is a Veneering at table, and for the first time addressing
him--'dies.'

The gratified Veneering repeats, gravely, 'dies'; and folds his arms,
and composes his brow to hear it out in a judicial manner, when he
finds himself again deserted in the bleak world.

'His will is found,' said Mortimer, catching Mrs Podsnap's rocking-
horse's eye.  'It is dated very soon after the son's flight.  It leaves
the lowest of the range of dust-mountains, with some sort of a
dwelling-house at its foot, to an old servant who is sole executor,
and all the rest of the property--which is very considerable--to the
son.  He directs himself to be buried with certain eccentric
ceremonies and precautions against his coming to life, with which
I need not bore you, and that's all--except--' and this ends the story.

The Analytical Chemist returning, everybody looks at him.  Not
because anybody wants to see him, but because of that subtle
influence in nature which impels humanity to embrace the slightest
opportunity of looking at anything, rather than the person who
addresses it.

'--Except that the son's inheriting is made conditional on his
marrying a girl, who at the date of the will, was a child of four or
five years old, and who is now a marriageable young woman.
Advertisement and inquiry discovered the son in the man from
Somewhere, and at the present moment, he is on his way home
from there--no doubt, in a state of great astonishment--to succeed
to a very large fortune, and to take a wife.'

Mrs Podsnap inquires whether the young person is a young person
of personal charms?  Mortimer is unable to report.

Mr Podsnap inquires what would become of the very large fortune,
in the event of the marriage condition not being fulfilled?
Mortimer replies, that by special testamentary clause it would then
go to the old servant above mentioned, passing over and excluding
the son; also, that if the son had not been living, the same old
servant would have been sole residuary legatee.

Mrs Veneering has just succeeded in waking Lady Tippins from a
snore, by dexterously shunting a train of plates and dishes at her
knuckles across the table; when everybody but Mortimer himself
becomes aware that the Analytical Chemist is, in a ghostly
manner, offering him a folded paper.  Curiosity detains Mrs
Veneering a few moments.

Mortimer, in spite of all the arts of the chemist, placidly refreshes
himself with a glass of Madeira, and remains unconscious of the
Document which engrosses the general attention, until Lady
Tippins (who has a habit of waking totally insensible), having
remembered where she is, and recovered a perception of
surrounding objects, says: 'Falser man than Don Juan; why don't
you take the note from the commendatore?'  Upon which, the
chemist advances it under the nose of Mortimer, who looks round
at him, and says:

'What's this?'

Analytical Chemist bends and whispers.

'WHO?'  Says Mortimer.

Analytical Chemist again bends and whispers.

Mortimer stares at him, and unfolds the paper.  Reads it, reads it
twice, turns it over to look at the blank outside, reads it a third
time.

'This arrives in an extraordinarily opportune manner,' says
Mortimer then, looking with an altered face round the table: 'this is
the conclusion of the story of the identical man.'

'Already married?' one guesses.

'Declines to marry?' another guesses.

'Codicil among the dust?' another guesses.

'Why, no,' says Mortimer; 'remarkable thing, you are all wrong.
The story is completer and rather more exciting than I supposed.
Man's drowned!'



Chapter 3

ANOTHER MAN


As the disappearing skirts of the ladies ascended the Veneering
staircase, Mortimer, following them forth from the dining-room,
turned into a library of bran-new books, in bran-new bindings
liberally gilded, and requested to see the messenger who had
brought the paper.  He was a boy of about fifteen.  Mortimer looked
at the boy, and the boy looked at the bran-new pilgrims on the
wall, going to Canterbury in more gold frame than procession, and
more carving than country.

'Whose writing is this?'

'Mine, sir.'

'Who told you to write it?'

'My father, Jesse Hexam.'

'Is it he who found the body?'

'Yes, sir.'

'What is your father?'

The boy hesitated, looked reproachfully at the pilgrims as if they
had involved him in a little difficulty, then said, folding a plait in
the right leg of his trousers, 'He gets his living along-shore.'

'Is it far?'

'Is which far?' asked the boy, upon his guard, and again upon the
road to Canterbury.

'To your father's?'

'It's a goodish stretch, sir.  I come up in a cab, and the cab's
waiting to be paid.  We could go back in it before you paid it, if
you liked.  I went first to your office, according to the direction of
the papers found in the pockets, and there I see nobody but a chap
of about my age who sent me on here.'

There was a curious mixture in the boy, of uncompleted savagery,
and uncompleted civilization.  His voice was hoarse and coarse,
and his face was coarse, and his stunted figure was coarse; but he
was cleaner than other boys of his type; and his writing, though
large and round, was good; and he glanced at the backs of the
books, with an awakened curiosity that went below the binding.
No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a
shelf, like one who cannot.

'Were any means taken, do you know, boy, to ascertain if it was
possible to restore life?' Mortimer inquired, as he sought for his
hat.

'You wouldn't ask, sir, if you knew his state.  Pharaoh's multitude
that were drowned in the Red Sea, ain't more beyond restoring to
life.  If Lazarus was only half as far gone, that was the greatest of
all the miracles.'

'Halloa!' cried Mortimer, turning round with his hat upon his head,
'you seem to be at home in the Red Sea, my young friend?'

'Read of it with teacher at the school,' said the boy.

'And Lazarus?'

'Yes, and him too.  But don't you tell my father!  We should have
no peace in our place, if that got touched upon.  It's my sister's
contriving.'

'You seem to have a good sister.'

'She ain't half bad,' said the boy; 'but if she knows her letters it's
the most she does--and them I learned her.'

The gloomy Eugene, with his hands in his pockets, had strolled in
and assisted at the latter part of the dialogue; when the boy spoke
these words slightingly of his sister, he took him roughly enough
by the chin, and turned up his face to look at it.

'Well, I'm sure, sir!' said the boy, resisting; 'I hope you'll know me
again.'

Eugene vouchsafed no answer; but made the proposal to Mortimer,
'I'll go with you, if you like?'  So, they all three went away together
in the vehicle that had brought the boy; the two friends (once boys
together at a public school) inside, smoking cigars; the messenger
on the box beside the driver.

'Let me see,' said Mortimer, as they went along; 'I have been,
Eugene, upon the honourable roll of solicitors of the High Court of
Chancery, and attorneys at Common Law, five years; and--except
gratuitously taking instructions, on an average once a fortnight, for
the will of Lady Tippins who has nothing to leave--I have had no
scrap of business but this romantic business.'

'And I,' said Eugene, 'have been "called" seven years, and have had
no business at all, and never shall have any.  And if I had, I
shouldn't know how to do it.'

'I am far from being clear as to the last particular,' returned
Mortimer, with great composure, 'that I have much advantage over
you.'

'I hate,' said Eugene, putting his legs up on the opposite seat, 'I
hate my profession.'

'Shall I incommode you, if I put mine up too?' returned Mortimer.
'Thank you.  I hate mine.'

'It was forced upon me,' said the gloomy Eugene, 'because it was
understood that we wanted a barrister in the family.  We have got a
precious one.'

'It was forced upon me,' said Mortimer, 'because it was understood
that we wanted a solicitor in the family. And we have got a
precious one.'

'There are four of us, with our names painted on a door-post in
right of one black hole called a set of chambers,' said Eugene; 'and
each of us has the fourth of a clerk--Cassim Baba, in the robber's
cave--and Cassim is the only respectable member of the party.'

'I am one by myself, one,' said Mortimer, 'high up an awful
staircase commanding a burial-ground, and I have a whole clerk to
myself, and he has nothing to do but look at the burial-ground, and
what he will turn out when arrived at maturity, I cannot conceive.
Whether, in that shabby rook's nest, he is always plotting wisdom,
or plotting murder; whether he will grow up, after so much solitary
brooding, to enlighten his fellow-creatures, or to poison them; is
the only speck of interest that presents itself to my professional
view.  Will you give me a light?  Thank you.'

'Then idiots talk,' said Eugene, leaning back, folding his arms,
smoking with his eyes shut, and speaking slightly through his
nose, 'of Energy.  If there is a word in the dictionary under any
letter from A to Z that I abominate, it is energy.  It is such a
conventional superstition, such parrot gabble!  What the deuce!
Am I to rush out into the street, collar the first man of a wealthy
appearance that I meet, shake him, and say, "Go to law upon the
spot, you dog, and retain me, or I'll be the death of you"?  Yet that
would be energy.'

'Precisely my view of the case, Eugene.  But show me a good
opportunity, show me something really worth being energetic
about, and I'll show you energy.'

'And so will I,' said Eugene.

And it is likely enough that ten thousand other young men, within
the limits of the London Post-office town delivery, made the same
hopeful remark in the course of the same evening.

The wheels rolled on, and rolled down by the Monument and by
the Tower, and by the Docks; down by Ratcliffe, and by
Rotherhithe; down by where accumulated scum of humanity
seemed to be washed from higher grounds, like so much moral
sewage, and to be pausing until its own weight forced it over the
bank and sunk it in the river.  In and out among vessels that
seemed to have got ashore, and houses that seemed to have got
afloat--among bow-splits staring into windows, and windows
staring into ships--the wheels rolled on, until they stopped at a
dark corner, river-washed and otherwise not washed at all, where
the boy alighted and opened the door.

'You must walk the rest, sir; it's not many yards.'  He spoke in the
singular number, to the express exclusion of Eugene.

'This is a confoundedly out-of-the-way place,' said Mortimer,
slipping over the stones and refuse on the shore, as the boy turned
the corner sharp.

'Here's my father's, sir; where the light is.'

The low building had the look of having once been a mill.  There
was a rotten wart of wood upon its forehead that seemed to
indicate where the sails had been, but the whole was very
indistinctly seen in the obscurity of the night.  The boy lifted the
latch of the door, and they passed at once into a low circular room,
where a man stood before a red fire, looking down into it, and a
girl sat engaged in needlework.  The fire was in a rusty brazier, not
fitted to the hearth; and a common lamp, shaped like a hyacinth-
root, smoked and flared in the neck of a stone bottle on the table.
There was a wooden bunk or berth in a corner, and in another
corner a wooden stair leading above--so clumsy and steep that it
was little better than a ladder.  Two or three old sculls and oars
stood against the wall, and against another part of the wall was a
small dresser, making a spare show of the commonest articles of
crockery and cooking-vessels.  The roof of the room was not
plastered, but was formed of the flooring of the room above.  This,
being very old, knotted, seamed, and beamed, gave a lowering
aspect to the chamber; and roof, and walls, and floor, alike
abounding in old smears of flour, red-lead (or some such stain
which it had probably acquired in warehousing), and damp, alike
had a look of decomposition.

'The gentleman, father.'

The figure at the red fire turned, raised its ruffled head, and looked
like a bird of prey.

'You're Mortimer Lightwood Esquire; are you, sir?'

'Mortimer Lightwood is my name.  What you found,' said Mortimer,
glancing rather shrinkingly towards the bunk; 'is it here?'

''Tain't not to say here, but it's close by.  I do everything reg'lar.
I've giv' notice of the circumstarnce to the police, and the police
have took possession of it.  No time ain't been lost, on any hand.
The police have put into print already, and here's what the print
says of it.'

Taking up the bottle with the lamp in it, he held it near a paper on
the wall, with the police heading, BODY FOUND.  The two
friends read the handbill as it stuck against the wall, and Gaffer
read them as he held the light.

'Only papers on the unfortunate man, I see,' said Lightwood,
glancing from the description of what was found, to the finder.

'Only papers.'

Here the girl arose with her work in her hand, and went out at the
door.

'No money,' pursued Mortimer; 'but threepence in one of the skirt-
pockets.'

'Three.  Penny.  Pieces,' said Gaffer Hexam, in as many sentences.

'The trousers pockets empty, and turned inside out.'

Gaffer Hexam nodded.  'But that's common.  Whether it's the wash
of the tide or no, I can't say.  Now, here,' moving the light to
another similar placard, 'HIS pockets was found empty, and turned
inside out.  And here,' moving the light to another, 'HER pocket
was found empty, and turned inside out.  And so was this one's.
And so was that one's.  I can't read, nor I don't want to it, for I
know 'em by their places on the wall.  This one was a sailor, with
two anchors and a flag and G. F. T. on his arm.  Look and see if he
warn't.'

'Quite right.'

'This one was the young woman in grey boots, and her linen
marked with a cross.  Look and see if she warn't.'

'Quite right.'

'This is him as had a nasty cut over the eye.  This is them two
young sisters what tied themselves together with a handkecher.
This the drunken old chap, in a pair of list slippers and a nightcap,
wot had offered--it afterwards come out--to make a hole in the
water for a quartern of rum stood aforehand, and kept to his word
for the first and last time in his life.  They pretty well papers the
room, you see; but I know 'em all.  I'm scholar enough!'

He waved the light over the whole, as if to typify the light of his
scholarly intelligence, and then put it down on the table and stood
behind it looking intently at his visitors.  He had the special
peculiarity of some birds of prey, that when he knitted his brow,
his ruffled crest stood highest.

'You did not find all these yourself; did you?' asked Eugene.

To which the bird of prey slowly rejoined, 'And what might YOUR
name be, now?'

'This is my friend,' Mortimer Lightwood interposed; 'Mr Eugene
Wrayburn.'

'Mr Eugene Wrayburn, is it?  And what might Mr Eugene Wrayburn
have asked of me?'

'I asked you, simply, if you found all these yourself?'

'I answer you, simply, most on 'em.'

'Do you suppose there has been much violence and robbery,
beforehand, among these cases?'

'I don't suppose at all about it,' returned Gaffer.  'I ain't one of the
supposing sort.  If you'd got your living to haul out of the river
every day of your life, you mightn't be much given to supposing.
Am I to show the way?'

As he opened the door, in pursuance of a nod from Lightwood, an
extremely pale and disturbed face appeared in the doorway--the
face of a man much agitated.

'A body missing?' asked Gaffer Hexam, stopping short; 'or a body
found?  Which?'

'I am lost!' replied the man, in a hurried and an eager manner.

'Lost?'

'I--I--am a stranger, and don't know the way.  I--I--want to find the
place where I can see what is described here.  It is possible I may
know it.'  He was panting, and could hardly speak; but, he showed
a copy of the newly-printed bill that was still wet upon the wall.
Perhaps its newness, or perhaps the accuracy of his observation of
its general look, guided Gaffer to a ready conclusion.

'This gentleman, Mr Lightwood, is on that business.'

'Mr Lightwood?'

During a pause, Mortimer and the stranger confronted each other.
Neither knew the other.

'I think, sir,' said Mortimer, breaking the awkward silence with his
airy self-possession, 'that you did me the honour to mention my
name?'

'I repeated it, after this man.'

'You said you were a stranger in London?'

'An utter stranger.'

'Are you seeking a Mr Harmon?'

'No.'

'Then I believe I can assure you that you are on a fruitless errand,
and will not find what you fear to find.  Will you come with us?'

A little winding through some muddy alleys that might have been
deposited by the last ill-savoured tide, brought them to the wicket-
gate and bright lamp of a Police Station;  where they found the
Night-Inspector, with a pen and ink, and ruler, posting up his
books in a whitewashed office, as studiously as if he were in a
monastery on top of a mountain, and no howling fury of a drunken
woman were banging herself against a cell-door in the back-yard at
his elbow.  With the same air of a recluse much given to study, he
desisted from his books to bestow a distrustful nod of recognition
upon Gaffer, plainly importing, 'Ah! we know all about YOU, and
you'll overdo it some day;' and to inform Mr Mortimer Lightwood
and friends, that he would attend them immediately.  Then, he
finished ruling the work he had in hand (it might have been
illuminating a missal, he was so calm), in a very neat and
methodical manner, showing not the slightest consciousness of the
woman who was banging herself with increased violence, and
shrieking most terrifically for some other woman's liver.

'A bull's-eye,' said the Night-Inspector, taking up his keys.  Which
a deferential satellite produced.  'Now, gentlemen.'

With one of his keys, he opened a cool grot at the end of the yard,
and they all went in.  They quickly came out again, no one
speaking but Eugene: who remarked to Mortimer, in a whisper,
'Not MUCH worse than Lady Tippins.'

So, back to the whitewashed library of the monastery--with that
liver still in shrieking requisition, as it had been loudly, while they
looked at the silent sight they came to see--and there through the
merits of the case as summed up by the Abbot.  No clue to how
body came into river.  Very often was no clue.  Too late to know
for certain, whether injuries received before or after death; one
excellent surgical opinion said, before; other excellent surgical
opinion said, after.  Steward of ship in which gentleman came
home passenger, had been round to view, and could swear to
identity.  Likewise could swear to clothes.  And then, you see, you
had the papers, too.  How was it he had totally disappeared on
leaving ship, 'till found in river?  Well!  Probably had been upon
some little game.  Probably thought it a harmless game, wasn't up
to things, and it turned out a fatal game.  Inquest to-morrow, and
no doubt open verdict.

'It appears to have knocked your friend over--knocked him
completely off his legs,' Mr Inspector remarked, when he had
finished his summing up.  'It has given him a bad turn to be sure!'
This was said in a very low voice, and with a searching look (not
the first he had cast) at the stranger.

Mr Lightwood explained that it was no friend of his.

'Indeed?' said Mr Inspector, with an attentive ear; 'where did you
pick him up?'

Mr Lightwood explained further.

Mr Inspector had delivered his summing up, and had added these
words, with his elbows leaning on his desk, and the fingers and
thumb of his right hand, fitting themselves to the fingers and
thumb of his left.  Mr Inspector moved nothing but his eyes, as he
now added, raising his voice:

'Turned you faint, sir!  Seems you're not accustomed to this kind of
work?'

The stranger, who was leaning against the chimneypiece with
drooping head, looked round and answered, 'No.  It's a horrible
sight!'

'You expected to identify, I am told, sir?'

'Yes.'

'HAVE you identified?'

'No.  It's a horrible sight.  O! a horrible, horrible sight!'

'Who did you think it might have been?' asked Mr Inspector.  'Give
us a description, sir.  Perhaps we can help you.'

'No, no,' said the stranger; 'it would be quite useless.  Good-night.'

Mr Inspector had not moved, and had given no order; but, the
satellite slipped his back against the wicket, and laid his left arm
along the top of it, and with his right hand turned the bull's-eye he
had taken from his chief--in quite a casual manner--towards the
stranger.

'You missed a friend, you know; or you missed a foe, you know; or
you wouldn't have come here, you know.  Well, then; ain't it
reasonable to ask, who was it?'  Thus, Mr Inspector.

'You must excuse my telling you.  No class of man can understand
better than you, that families may not choose to publish their
disagreements and misfortunes, except on the last necessity.  I do
not dispute that you discharge your duty in asking me the question;
you will not dispute my right to withhold the answer.  Good-night.'

Again he turned towards the wicket, where the satellite, with his
eye upon his chief, remained a dumb statue.

'At least,' said Mr Inspector, 'you will not object to leave me your
card, sir?'

'I should not object, if I had one; but I have not.'  He reddened and
was much confused as he gave the answer.

'At least,' said Mr Inspector, with no change of voice or manner,
'you will not object to write down your name and address?'

'Not at all.'

Mr Inspector dipped a pen in his inkstand, and deftly laid it on a
piece of paper close beside him; then resumed his former attitude.
The stranger stepped up to the desk, and wrote in a rather
tremulous hand--Mr Inspector taking sidelong note of every hair of
his head when it was bent down for the purpose--'Mr Julius
Handford, Exchequer Coffee House, Palace Yard, Westminster.'

'Staying there, I presume, sir?'

'Staying there.'

'Consequently, from the country?'

'Eh?  Yes--from the country.'

'Good-night, sir.'

The satellite removed his arm and opened the wicket, and Mr
Julius Handford went out.

'Reserve!' said Mr Inspector.  'Take care of this piece of paper, keep
him in view without giving offence, ascertain that he IS staying
there, and find out anything you can about him.'

The satellite was gone; and Mr Inspector, becoming once again the
quiet Abbot of that Monastery, dipped his pen in his ink and
resumed his books.  The two friends who had watched him, more
amused by the professional manner than suspicious of Mr Julius
Handford, inquired before taking their departure too whether he
believed there was anything that really looked bad here?

The Abbot replied with reticence, couldn't say.  If a murder,
anybody might have done it.  Burglary or pocket-picking wanted
'prenticeship.  Not so, murder.  We were all of us up to that.  Had
seen scores of people come to identify, and never saw one person
struck in that particular way.  Might, however, have been Stomach
and not Mind.  If so, rum stomach.  But to be sure there were rum
everythings.  Pity there was not a word of truth in that superstition
about bodies bleeding when touched by the hand of the right
person; you never got a sign out of bodies.  You got row enough
out of such as her--she was good for all night now (referring here
to the banging demands for the liver), 'but you got nothing out of
bodies if it was ever so.'

There being nothing more to be done until the Inquest was held
next day, the friends went away together, and Gaffer Hexam and
his son went their separate way.  But, arriving at the last corner,
Gaffer bade his boy go home while he turned into a red-curtained
tavern, that stood dropsically bulging over the causeway, 'for a
half-a-pint.'

The boy lifted the latch he had lifted before, and found his sister
again seated before the fire at her work.  Who raised her head upon
his coming in and asking:

'Where did you go, Liz?'

'I went out in the dark.'

'There was no necessity for that.  It was all right enough.'

'One of the gentlemen, the one who didn't speak while I was there,
looked hard at me.  And I was afraid he might know what my face
meant.  But there!  Don't mind me, Charley!  I was all in a tremble
of another sort when you owned to father you could write a little.'

'Ah!  But I made believe I wrote so badly, as that it was odds if any
one could read it.  And when I wrote slowest and smeared but with
my finger most, father was best pleased, as he stood looking over
me.'

The girl put aside her work, and drawing her seat close to his seat
by the fire, laid her arm gently on his shoulder.

'You'll make the most of your time, Charley; won't you?'

'Won't I?  Come!  I like that.  Don't I?'

'Yes, Charley, yes.  You work hard at your learning, I know.  And
I work a little, Charley, and plan and contrive a little (wake out of
my sleep contriving sometimes), how to get together a shilling
now, and a shilling then, that shall make father believe you are
beginning to earn a stray living along shore.'

'You are father's favourite, and can make him believe anything.'

'I wish I could, Charley!  For if I could make him believe that
learning was a good thing, and that we might lead better lives, I
should be a'most content to die.'

'Don't talk stuff about dying, Liz.'

She placed her hands in one another on his shoulder, and laying
her rich brown cheek against them as she looked down at the fire,
went on thoughtfully:

'Of an evening, Charley, when you are at the school, and father's--'

'At the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters,' the boy struck in, with a
backward nod of his head towards the public-house.

'Yes.  Then as I sit a-looking at the fire, I seem to see in the
burning coal--like where that glow is now--'

'That's gas, that is,' said the boy, 'coming out of a bit of a forest
that's been under the mud that was under the water in the days of
Noah's Ark.  Look here!  When I take the poker--so--and give it a
dig--'

'Don't disturb it, Charley, or it'll be all in a blaze.  It's that dull
glow near it, coming and going, that I mean.  When I look at it of
an evening, it comes like pictures to me, Charley.'

'Show us a picture,' said the boy.  'Tell us where to look.'

'Ah!  It wants my eyes, Charley.'

'Cut away then, and tell us what your eyes make of it.'

'Why, there are you and me, Charley, when you were quite a baby
that never knew a mother--'

'Don't go saying I never knew a mother,' interposed the boy, 'for I
knew a little sister that was sister and mother both.'

The girl laughed delightedly, and here eyes filled with pleasant
tears, as he put both his arms round her waist and so held her.

'There are you and me, Charley, when father was away at work and
locked us out, for fear we should set ourselves afire or fall out of
window, sitting on the door-sill, sitting on other door-steps, sitting
on the bank of the river, wandering about to get through the time.
You are rather heavy to carry, Charley, and I am often obliged to
rest.  Sometimes we are sleepy and fall asleep together in a corner,
sometimes we are very hungry, sometimes we are a little
frightened, but what is oftenest hard upon us is the cold.  You
remember, Charley?'

'I remember,' said the boy, pressing her to him twice or thrice, 'that
I snuggled under a little shawl, and it was warm there.'

'Sometimes it rains, and we creep under a boat or the like of that:
sometimes it's dark, and we get among the gaslights, sitting
watching the people as they go along the streets.  At last, up comes
father and takes us home.  And home seems such a shelter after out
of doors!  And father pulls my shoes off, and dries my feet at the
fire, and has me to sit by him while he smokes his pipe long after
you are abed, and I notice that father's is a large hand but never a
heavy one when it touches me, and that father's is a rough voice
but never an angry one when it speaks to me.  So, I grow up, and
little by little father trusts me, and makes me his companion, and,
let him be put out as he may, never once strikes me.'

The listening boy gave a grunt here, as much as to say 'But he
strikes ME though!'

'Those are some of the pictures of what is past, Charley.'

'Cut away again,' said the boy, 'and give us a fortune-telling one; a
future one.'

'Well!  There am I, continuing with father and holding to father,
because father loves me and I love father.  I can't so much as read a
book, because, if I had learned, father would have thought I was
deserting him, and I should have lost my influence.  I have not the
influence I want to have, I cannot stop some dreadful things I try to
stop, but I go on in the hope and trust that the time will come.  In
the meanwhile I know that I am in some things a stay to father,
and that if I was not faithful to him he would--in revenge-like, or in
disappointment, or both--go wild and bad.'

'Give us a touch of the fortune-telling pictures about me.'

'I was passing on to them, Charley,' said the girl, who had not
changed her attitude since she began, and who now mournfully
shook her head; 'the others were all leading up.  There are you--'

'Where am I, Liz?'

'Still in the hollow down by the flare.'

'There seems to be the deuce-and-all in the hollow down by the
flare,' said the boy, glancing from her eyes to the brazier, which
had a grisly skeleton look on its long thin legs.

'There are you, Charley, working your way, in secret from father, at
the school; and you get prizes; and you go on better and better; and
you come to be a--what was it you called it when you told me
about that?'

'Ha, ha!  Fortune-telling not know the name!' cried the boy,
seeming to be rather relieved by this default on the part of the
hollow down by the flare.  'Pupil-teacher.'

'You come to be a pupil-teacher, and you still go on better and
better, and you rise to be a master full of learning and respect.  But
the secret has come to father's knowledge long before, and it has
divided you from father, and from me.'

'No it hasn't!'

'Yes it has, Charley.  I see, as plain as plain can be, that your way
is not ours, and that even if father could be got to forgive your
taking it (which he never could be), that way of yours would be
darkened by our way.  But I see too, Charley--'

'Still as plain as plain can be, Liz?' asked the boy playfully.

'Ah!  Still.  That it is a great work to have cut you away from
father's life, and to have made a new and good beginning.  So there
am I, Charley, left alone with father, keeping him as straight as I
can, watching for more influence than I have, and hoping that
through some fortunate chance, or when he is ill, or when--I don't
know what--I may turn him to wish to do better things.'

'You said you couldn't read a book, Lizzie.  Your library of books
is the hollow down by the flare, I think.'

'I should be very glad to be able to read real books.  I feel my want
of learning very much, Charley.  But I should feel it much more, if
I didn't know it to be a tie between me and father.--Hark!  Father's
tread!'

It being now past midnight, the bird of prey went straight to roost.
At mid-day following he reappeared at the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters, in the character, not new to him, of a witness before a
Coroner's Jury.

Mr Mortimer Lightwood, besides sustaining the character of one of
the witnesses, doubled the part with that of the eminent solicitor
who watched the proceedings on behalf of the representatives of
the deceased, as was duly recorded in the newspapers.  Mr
Inspector watched the proceedings too, and kept his watching
closely to himself.  Mr Julius Handford having given his right
address, and being reported in solvent circumstances as to his bill,
though nothing more was known of him at his hotel except that his
way of life was very retired, had no summons to appear, and was
merely present in the shades of Mr Inspector's mind.

The case was made interesting to the public, by Mr Mortimer
Lightwood's evidence touching the circumstances under which the
deceased, Mr John Harmon, had returned to England; exclusive
private proprietorship in which circumstances was set up at dinner-
tables for several days, by Veneering, Twemlow, Podsnap, and all
the Buffers: who all related them irreconcilably with one another,
and contradicted themselves.  It was also made interesting by the
testimony of Job Potterson, the ship's steward, and one Mr Jacob
Kibble, a fellow-passenger, that the deceased Mr John Harmon did
bring over, in a hand-valise with which he did disembark, the sum
realized by the forced sale of his little landed property, and that the
sum exceeded, in ready money, seven hundred pounds.  It was
further made interesting, by the remarkable experiences of Jesse
Hexam in having rescued from the Thames so many dead bodies,
and for whose behoof a rapturous admirer subscribing himself  'A
friend to Burial' (perhaps an undertaker), sent eighteen postage
stamps, and five 'Now Sir's to the editor of the Times.

Upon the evidence adduced before them, the Jury found, That the
body of Mr John Harmon had been discovered floating in the
Thames, in an advanced state of decay, and much injured; and that
the said Mr John Harmon had come by his death under highly
suspicious circumstances, though by whose act or in what precise
manner there was no evidence before this Jury to show.  And they
appended to their verdict, a recommendation to the Home Office
(which Mr Inspector appeared to think highly sensible), to offer a
reward for the solution of the mystery.  Within eight-and-forty
hours, a reward of One Hundred Pounds was proclaimed, together
with a free pardon to any person or persons not the actual
perpetrator or perpetrators, and so forth in due form.

This Proclamation rendered Mr Inspector additionally studious,
and caused him to stand meditating on river-stairs and causeways,
and to go lurking about in boats, putting this and that together.
But, according to the success with which you put this and that
together, you get a woman and a fish apart, or a Mermaid in
combination.  And Mr Inspector could turn out nothing better than
a Mermaid, which no Judge and Jury would believe in.

Thus, like the tides on which it had been borne to the knowledge of
men, the Harmon Murder--as it came to be popularly called--went
up and down, and ebbed and flowed, now in the town, now in the
country, now among palaces, now among hovels, now among lords
and ladies and gentlefolks, now among labourers and hammerers
and ballast-heavers, until at last, after a long interval of slack
water it got out to sea and drifted away.



Chapter 4

THE R. WILFER FAMILY


Reginald Wilfer is a name with rather a grand sound, suggesting
on first acquaintance brasses in country churches, scrolls in
stained-glass windows, and generally the De Wilfers who came
over with the Conqueror.  For, it is a remarkable fact in genealogy
that no De Any ones ever came over with Anybody else.

But, the Reginald Wilfer family were of such commonplace
extraction and pursuits that their forefathers had for generations
modestly subsisted on the Docks, the Excise Office, and the
Custom House, and the existing R. Wilfer was a poor clerk.  So
poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited
family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his
ambition: which was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat
and boots included, at one time.  His black hat was brown before
he could afford a coat, his pantaloons were white at the seams and
knees before he could buy a pair of boots, his boots had worn out
before he could treat himself to new pantaloons, and, by the time
he worked round to the hat again, that shining modern article
roofed-in an ancient ruin of various periods.

If the conventional Cherub could ever grow up and be clothed, he
might be photographed as a portrait of Wilfer.  His chubby,
smooth, innocent appearance was a reason for his being always
treated with condescension when he was not put down.  A stranger
entering his own poor house at about ten o'clock P.M. might have
been surprised to find him sitting up to supper.  So boyish was he
in his curves and proportions, that his old schoolmaster meeting
him in Cheapside, might have been unable to withstand the
temptation of caning him on the spot.  In short, he was the
conventional cherub, after the supposititious shoot just mentioned,
rather grey, with signs of care on his expression, and in decidedly
insolvent circumstances.

He was shy, and unwilling to own to the name of Reginald, as
being too aspiring and self-assertive a name.  In his signature he
used only the initial R., and imparted what it really stood for, to
none but chosen friends, under the seal of confidence.  Out of this,
the facetious habit had arisen in the neighbourhood surrounding
Mincing Lane of making christian names for him of adjectives and
participles beginning with R.  Some of these were more or less
appropriate: as Rusty, Retiring, Ruddy, Round, Ripe, Ridiculous,
Ruminative; others, derived their point from their want of
application: as Raging, Rattling, Roaring, Raffish.  But, his
popular name was Rumty, which in a moment of inspiration had
been bestowed upon him by a gentleman of convivial habits
connected with the drug-markets, as the beginning of a social
chorus, his leading part in the execution of which had led this
gentleman to the Temple of Fame, and of which the whole
expressive burden ran:

     'Rumty iddity, row dow dow,
     Sing toodlely, teedlely, bow wow wow.'

Thus he was constantly addressed, even in minor notes on
business, as 'Dear Rumty'; in answer to which, he sedately signed
himself, 'Yours truly, R. Wilfer.'

He was clerk in the drug-house of Chicksey, Veneering, and
Stobbles.  Chicksey and Stobbles, his former masters, had both
become absorbed in Veneering, once their traveller or commission
agent: who had signalized his accession to supreme power by
bringing into the business a quantity of plate-glass window and
French-polished mahogany partition, and a gleaming and
enormous doorplate.

R. Wilfer locked up his desk one evening, and, putting his bunch
of keys in his pocket much as if it were his peg-top, made for
home.  His home was in the Holloway region north of London, and
then divided from it by fields and trees.  Between Battle Bridge
and that part of the Holloway district in which he dwelt, was a
tract of suburban Sahara, where tiles and bricks were burnt, bones
were boiled, carpets were beat, rubbish was shot, dogs were
fought, and dust was heaped by contractors.  Skirting the border of
this desert, by the way he took, when the light of its kiln-fires made
lurid smears on the fog, R. Wilfer sighed and shook his head.

'Ah me!' said he, 'what might have been is not what is!'

With which commentary on human life, indicating an experience
of it not exclusively his own, he made the best of his way to the
end of his journey.

Mrs Wilfer was, of course, a tall woman and an angular.  Her lord
being cherubic, she was necessarily majestic, according to the
principle which matrimonially unites contrasts.  She was much
given to tying up her head in a pocket-handkerchief, knotted under
the chin.  This head-gear, in conjunction with a pair of gloves worn
within doors, she seemed to consider as at once a kind of armour
against misfortune (invariably assuming it when in low spirits or
difficulties), and as a species of full dress.  It was therefore with
some sinking of the spirit that her husband beheld her thus
heroically attired, putting down her candle in the little hall, and
coming down the doorsteps through the little front court to open
the gate for him.

Something had gone wrong with the house-door, for R. Wilfer
stopped on the steps, staring at it, and cried:

'Hal-loa?'

'Yes,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'the man came himself with a pair of
pincers, and took it off, and took it away.  He said that as he had
no expectation of ever being paid for it, and as he had an order for
another LADIES' SCHOOL door-plate, it was better (burnished
up) for the interests of all parties.'

'Perhaps it was, my dear; what do you think?'

'You are master here, R. W.,' returned his wife.  'It is as you think;
not as I do.  Perhaps it might have been better if the man had taken
the door too?'

'My dear, we couldn't have done without the door.'

'Couldn't we?'

'Why, my dear!  Could we?'

'It is as you think, R. W.; not as I do.'  With those submissive
words, the dutiful wife preceded him down a few stairs to a little
basement front room, half kitchen, half parlour, where a girl of
about nineteen, with an exceedingly pretty figure and face, but with
an impatient and petulant expression both in her face and in her
shoulders (which in her sex and at her age are very expressive of
discontent), sat playing draughts with a younger girl, who was the
youngest of the House of Wilfer.  Not to encumber this page by
telling off the Wilfers in detail and casting them up in the gross, it
is enough for the present that the rest were what is called 'out in the
world,' in various ways, and that they were Many.  So many,
that when one of his dutiful children called in to see him, R. Wilfer
generally seemed to say to himself, after a little mental arithmetic,
'Oh! here's another of 'em!' before adding aloud, 'How de do, John,'
or Susan, as the case might be.

'Well Piggywiggies,' said R. W., 'how de do to-night?  What I was
thinking of, my dear,' to Mrs Wilfer already seated in a corner with
folded gloves, 'was, that as we have let our first floor so well, and
as we have now no place in which you could teach pupils even if
pupils--'

'The milkman said he knew of two young ladies of the highest
respectability who were in search of a suitable establishment, and
he took a card,' interposed Mrs Wilfer, with severe monotony, as if
she were reading an Act of Parliament aloud.  'Tell your father
whether it was last Monday, Bella.'

'But we never heard any more of it, ma,' said Bella, the elder girl.

'In addition to which, my dear,' her husband urged, 'if you have no
place to put two young persons into--'

'Pardon me,' Mrs Wilfer again interposed; 'they were not young
persons.  Two young ladies of the highest respectability.  Tell your
father, Bella, whether the milkman said so.'

'My dear, it is the same thing.'

'No it is not,' said Mrs Wilfer, with the same impressive monotony.
'Pardon me!'

'I mean, my dear, it is the same thing as to space.  As to space.  If
you have no space in which to put two youthful fellow-creatures,
however eminently respectable, which I do not doubt, where are
those youthful fellow-creatures to be accommodated?  I carry it no
further than that.  And solely looking at it,' said her husband,
making the stipulation at once in a conciliatory, complimentary,
and argumentative tone--'as I am sure you will agree, my love--
from a fellow-creature point of view, my dear.'

'I have nothing more to say,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with a meek
renunciatory action of her gloves.  'It is as you think, R. W.;
not as I do.'

Here, the huffing of Miss Bella and the loss of three of her men at a
swoop, aggravated by the coronation of an opponent, led to that
young lady's jerking the draught-board and pieces off the table:
which her sister went down on her knees to pick up.

'Poor Bella!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'And poor Lavinia, perhaps, my dear?' suggested R. W.

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'no!'

It was one of the worthy woman's specialities that she had an
amazing power of gratifying her splenetic or worldly-minded
humours by extolling her own family: which she thus proceeded, in
the present case, to do.

'No, R. W. Lavinia has not known the trial that Bella has known.
The trial that your daughter Bella has undergone, is, perhaps,
without a parallel, and has been borne, I will say, Nobly.  When
you see your daughter Bella in her black dress, which she alone of
all the family wears, and when you remember the circumstances
which have led to her wearing it, and when you know how those
circumstances have been sustained, then, R. W., lay your head
upon your pillow and say, "Poor Lavinia!"'

Here, Miss Lavinia, from her kneeling situation under the table,
put in that she didn't want to be 'poored by pa', or anybody else.

'I am sure you do not, my dear,' returned her mother, 'for you have
a fine brave spirit.  And your sister Cecilia has a fine brave spirit of
another kind, a spirit of pure devotion, a beau-ti-ful spirit!  The
self-sacrifice of Cecilia reveals a pure and womanly character, very
seldom equalled, never surpassed.  I have now in my pocket a
letter from your sister Cecilia, received this morning--received
three months after her marriage, poor child!--in which she tells me
that her husband must unexpectedly shelter under their roof his
reduced aunt.  "But I will be true to him, mamma," she touchingly
writes, "I will not leave him, I must not forget that he is my
husband.  Let his aunt come!"  If this is not pathetic, if this is not
woman's devotion--!'  The good lady waved her gloves in a sense
of the impossibility of saying more, and tied the pocket-
handkerchief over her head in a tighter knot under her chin.

Bella, who was now seated on the rug to warm herself, with her
brown eyes on the fire and a handful of her brown curls in her
mouth, laughed at this, and then pouted and half cried.

'I am sure,' said she, 'though you have no feeling for me, pa, I am
one of the most unfortunate girls that ever lived.  You know how
poor we are' (it is probable he did, having some reason to know
it!), 'and what a glimpse of wealth I had, and how it melted away,
and how I am here in this ridiculous mourning--which I hate!--a
kind of a widow who never was married.  And yet you don't feel
for me.--Yes you do, yes you do.'

This abrupt change was occasioned by her father's face.  She
stopped to pull him down from his chair in an attitude highly
favourable to strangulation, and to give him a kiss and a pat or two
on the cheek.

'But you ought to feel for me, you know, pa.'

'My dear, I do.'

'Yes, and I say you ought to.  If they had only left me alone and
told me nothing about it, it would have mattered much less.  But
that nasty Mr Lightwood feels it his duty, as he says, to write and
tell me what is in reserve for me, and then I am obliged to get rid
of George Sampson.'

Here, Lavinia, rising to the surface with the last draughtman
rescued, interposed, 'You never cared for George Sampson, Bella.'

'And did I say I did, miss?'  Then, pouting again, with the curls in
her mouth; 'George Sampson was very fond of me, and admired me
very much, and put up with everything I did to him.'

'You were rude enough to him,' Lavinia again interposed.

'And did I say I wasn't, miss?  I am not setting up to be sentimental
about George Sampson.  I only say George Sampson was better
than nothing.'

'You didn't show him that you thought even that,' Lavinia again
interposed.

'You are a chit and a little idiot,' returned Bella, 'or you wouldn't
make such a dolly speech.  What did you expect me to do?  Wait
till you are a woman, and don't talk about what you don't
understand.  You only show your ignorance!'  Then, whimpering
again, and at intervals biting the curls, and stopping to look how
much was bitten off, 'It's a shame!  There never was such a hard
case!  I shouldn't care so much if it wasn't so ridiculous.  It was
ridiculous enough to have a stranger coming over to marry me,
whether he liked it or not.  It was ridiculous enough to know what
an embarrassing meeting it would be, and how we never could
pretend to have an inclination of our own, either of us.  It was
ridiculous enough to know I shouldn't like him--how COULD I
like him, left to him in a will, like a dozen of spoons, with
everything cut and dried beforehand, like orange chips.  Talk of
orange flowers indeed!  I declare again it's a shame!  Those
ridiculous points would have been smoothed away by the money,
for I love money, and want money--want it dreadfully.  I hate to be
poor, and we are degradingly poor, offensively poor, miserably
poor, beastly poor.  But here I am, left with all the ridiculous parts
of the situation remaining, and, added to them all, this ridiculous
dress!  And if the truth was known, when the Harmon murder was
all over the town, and people were speculating on its being suicide,
I dare say those impudent wretches at the clubs and places made
jokes about the miserable creature's having preferred a watery
grave to me.  It's likely enough they took such liberties; I shouldn't
wonder!  I declare it's a very hard case indeed, and I am a most
unfortunate girl.  The idea of being a kind of a widow, and never
having been married!  And the idea of being as poor as ever after
all, and going into black, besides, for a man I never saw, and
should have hated--as far as HE was concerned--if I had seen!'

The young lady's lamentations were checked at this point by a
knuckle, knocking at the half-open door of the room.  The knuckle
had knocked two or three times already, but had not been heard.

'Who is it?' said Mrs Wilfer, in her Act-of-Parliament manner.
'Enter!'

A gentleman coming in, Miss Bella, with a short and sharp
exclamation, scrambled off the hearth-rug and massed the bitten
curls together in their right place on her neck.

'The servant girl had her key in the door as I came up, and directed
me to this room, telling me I was expected.  I am afraid I should
have asked her to announce me.'

'Pardon me,' returned Mrs Wilfer.  'Not at all.  Two of my
daughters.  R. W., this is the gentleman who has taken your first-
floor.  He was so good as to make an appointment for to-night,
when you would be at home.'

A dark gentleman.  Thirty at the utmost.  An expressive, one might
say handsome, face.  A very bad manner.  In the last degree
constrained, reserved, diffident, troubled.  His eyes were on Miss
Bella for an instant, and then looked at the ground as he addressed
the master of the house.

'Seeing that I am quite satisfied, Mr Wilfer, with the rooms, and
with their situation, and with their price, I suppose a memorandum
between us of two or three lines, and a payment down, will bind
the bargain?  I wish to send in furniture without delay.'

Two or three times during this short address, the cherub addressed
had made chubby motions towards a chair.  The gentleman now
took it, laying a hesitating hand on a corner of the table, and with
another hesitating hand lifting the crown of his hat to his lips, and
drawing it before his mouth.

'The gentleman, R. W.,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'proposes to take your
apartments by the quarter.  A quarter's notice on either side.'

'Shall I mention, sir,' insinuated the landlord, expecting it to be
received as a matter of course, 'the form of a reference?'

'I think,' returned the gentleman, after a pause, 'that a reference is
not necessary; neither, to say the truth, is it convenient, for I am a
stranger in London.  I require no reference from you, and perhaps,
therefore, you will require none from me.  That will be fair on both
sides.  Indeed, I show the greater confidence of the two, for I will
pay in advance whatever you please, and I am going to trust my
furniture here.  Whereas, if you were in embarrassed
circumstances--this is merely supposititious--'

Conscience causing R. Wilfer to colour, Mrs Wilfer, from a corner
(she always got into stately corners) came to the rescue with a
deep-toned 'Per-fectly.'

'--Why then I--might lose it.'

'Well!' observed R. Wilfer, cheerfully, 'money and goods are
certainly the best of references.'

'Do you think they ARE the best, pa?' asked Miss Bella, in a low
voice, and without looking over her shoulder as she warmed her
foot on the fender.

'Among the best, my dear.'

'I should have thought, myself, it was so easy to add the usual kind
of one,' said Bella, with a toss of her curls.

The gentleman listened to her, with a face of marked attention,
though he neither looked up nor changed his attitude.  He sat, still
and silent, until his future landlord accepted his proposals, and
brought writing materials to complete the business.  He sat, still
and silent, while the landlord wrote.

When the agreement was ready in duplicate (the landlord having
worked at it like some cherubic scribe, in what is conventionally
called a doubtful, which means a not at all doubtful, Old Master),
it was signed by the contracting parties, Bella looking on as
scornful witness.  The contracting parties were R. Wilfer, and John
Rokesmith Esquire.

When it came to Bella's turn to sign her name, Mr Rokesmith, who
was standing, as he had sat, with a hesitating hand upon the table,
looked at her stealthily, but narrowly.  He looked at the pretty
figure bending down over the paper and saying, 'Where am I to go,
pa?  Here, in this corner?'  He looked at the beautiful brown hair,
shading the coquettish face; he looked at the free dash of the
signature, which was a bold one for a woman's; and then they
looked at one another.

'Much obliged to you, Miss Wilfer.'

'Obliged?'

'I have given you so much trouble.'

'Signing my name?  Yes, certainly.  But I am your landlord's
daughter, sir.'

As there was nothing more to do but pay eight sovereigns in
earnest of the bargain, pocket the agreement, appoint a time for the
arrival of his furniture and himself, and go, Mr Rokesmith did that
as awkwardly as it might be done, and was escorted by his
landlord to the outer air.  When R. Wilfer returned, candlestick in
hand, to the bosom of his family, he found the bosom agitated.

'Pa,' said Bella, 'we have got a Murderer for a tenant.'

'Pa,' said Lavinia, 'we have got a Robber.'

'To see him unable for his life to look anybody in the face!' said
Bella.  'There never was such an exhibition.'

'My dears,' said their father, 'he is a diffident gentleman, and I
should say particularly so in the society of girls of your age.'

'Nonsense, our age!' cried Bella, impatiently.  'What's that got to do
with him?'

'Besides, we are not of the same age:--which age?' demanded
Lavinia.

'Never YOU mind, Lavvy,' retorted Bella; 'you wait till you are of
an age to ask such questions.  Pa, mark my words!  Between Mr
Rokesmith and me, there is a natural antipathy and a deep distrust;
and something will come of it!'

'My dear, and girls,' said the cherub-patriarch, 'between Mr
Rokesmith and me, there is a matter of eight sovereigns, and
something for supper shall come of it, if you'll agree upon the
article.'

This was a neat and happy turn to give the subject, treats being
rare in the Wilfer household, where a monotonous appearance of
Dutch-cheese at ten o'clock in the evening had been rather
frequently commented on by the dimpled shoulders of Miss Bella.
Indeed, the modest Dutchman himself seemed conscious of his
want of variety, and generally came before the family in a state of
apologetic perspiration.  After some discussion on the relative
merits of veal-cutlet, sweetbread, and lobster, a decision was
pronounced in favour of veal-cutlet.  Mrs Wilfer then solemnly
divested herself of her handkerchief and gloves, as a preliminary
sacrifice to preparing the frying-pan, and R. W. himself went out to
purchase the viand.  He soon returned, bearing the same in a fresh
cabbage-leaf, where it coyly embraced a rasher of ham.  Melodious
sounds were not long in rising from the frying-pan on the fire, or in
seeming, as the firelight danced in the mellow halls of a couple of
full bottles on the table, to play appropriate dance-music.

The cloth was laid by Lavvy.  Bella, as the acknowledged
ornament of the family, employed both her hands in giving her hair
an additional wave while sitting in the easiest chair, and
occasionally threw in a direction touching the supper: as, 'Very
brown, ma;' or, to her sister, 'Put the saltcellar straight, miss, and
don't be a dowdy little puss.'

Meantime her father, chinking Mr Rokesmith's gold as he sat
expectant between his knife and fork, remarked that six of those
sovereigns came just in time for their landlord, and stood them in a
little pile on the white tablecloth to look at.

'I hate our landlord!' said Bella.

But, observing a fall in her father's face, she went and sat down by
him at the table, and began touching up his hair with the handle of
a fork.  It was one of the girl's spoilt ways to be always arranging
the family's hair--perhaps because her own was so pretty, and
occupied so much of her attention.

'You deserve to have a house of your own; don't you, poor pa?'

'I don't deserve it better than another, my dear.'

'At any rate I, for one, want it more than another,' said Bella,
holding him by the chin, as she stuck his flaxen hair on end, 'and I
grudge this money going to the Monster that swallows up so much,
when we all want--Everything.  And if you say (as you want to say;
I know you want to say so, pa) "that's neither reasonable nor
honest, Bella," then I answer, "Maybe not, pa--very likely--but it's
one of the consequences of being poor, and of thoroughly hating
and detesting to be poor, and that's my case."  Now, you look
lovely, pa; why don't you always wear your hair like that?  And
here's the cutlet!  If it isn't very brown, ma, I can't eat it, and must
have a bit put back to be done expressly.'

However, as it was brown, even to Bella's taste, the young lady
graciously partook of it without reconsignment to the frying-pan,
and also, in due course, of the contents of the two bottles: whereof
one held Scotch ale and the other rum.  The latter perfume, with
the fostering aid of boiling water and lemon-peel, diffused itself
throughout the room, and became so highly concentrated around
the warm fireside, that the wind passing over the house roof must
have rushed off charged with a delicious whiff of it, after buzzing
like a great bee at that particular chimneypot.

'Pa,' said Bella, sipping the fragrant mixture and warming her
favourite ankle; 'when old Mr Harmon made such a fool of me (not
to mention himself, as he is dead), what do you suppose he did it
for?'

'Impossible to say, my dear.  As I have told you time out of number
since his will was brought to light, I doubt if I ever exchanged a
hundred words with the old gentleman.  If it was his whim to
surprise us, his whim succeeded.  For he certainly did it.'

'And I was stamping my foot and screaming, when he first took
notice of me; was I?' said Bella, contemplating the ankle before
mentioned.

'You were stamping your little foot, my dear, and screaming with
your little voice, and laying into me with your little bonnet, which
you had snatched off for the purpose,' returned her father, as if the
remembrance gave a relish to the rum; 'you were doing this one
Sunday morning when I took you out, because I didn't go the exact
way you wanted, when the old gentleman, sitting on a seat near,
said, "That's a nice girl; that's a VERY nice girl; a promising girl!"
And so you were, my dear.'

'And then he asked my name, did he, pa?'

'Then he asked your name, my dear, and mine; and on other
Sunday mornings, when we walked his way, we saw him again,
and--and really that's all.'

As that was all the rum and water too, or, in other words, as R. W.
delicately signified that his glass was empty, by throwing back his
head and standing the glass upside down on his nose and upper
lip, it might have been charitable in Mrs Wilfer to suggest
replenishment.  But that heroine briefly suggesting 'Bedtime'
instead, the bottles were put away, and the family retired; she
cherubically escorted, like some severe saint in a painting, or
merely human matron allegorically treated.

'And by this time to-morrow,' said Lavinia when the two girls were
alone in their room, 'we shall have Mr Rokesmith here, and shall
be expecting to have our throats cut.'

'You needn't stand between me and the candle for all that,' retorted
Bella.  'This is another of the consequences of being poor!  The
idea of a girl with a really fine head of hair, having to do it by one
flat candle and a few inches of looking-glass!'

'You caught George Sampson with it, Bella, bad as your means of
dressing it are.'

'You low little thing.  Caught George Sampson with it!  Don't talk
about catching people, miss, till your own time for catching--as
you call it--comes.'

'Perhaps it has come,' muttered Lavvy, with a toss of her head.

'What did you say?' asked Bella, very sharply.  'What did you say,
miss?'

Lavvy declining equally to repeat or to explain, Bella gradually
lapsed over her hair-dressing into a soliloquy on the miseries of
being poor, as exemplified in having nothing to put on, nothing to
go out in, nothing to dress by, only a nasty box to dress at instead
of a commodious dressing-table, and being obliged to take in
suspicious lodgers.  On the last grievance as her climax, she laid
great stress--and might have laid greater, had she known that if Mr
Julius Handford had a twin brother upon earth, Mr John
Rokesmith was the man.



Chapter 5

BOFFIN'S BOWER


Over against a London house, a corner house not far from
Cavendish Square, a man with a wooden leg had sat for some years,
with his remaining foot in a basket in cold weather, picking
up a living on this wise:--Every morning at eight o'clock, he
stumped to the corner, carrying a chair, a clothes-horse, a pair of
trestles, a board, a basket, and an umbrella, all strapped together.
Separating these, the board and trestles became a counter, the
basket supplied the few small lots of fruit and sweets that he
offered for sale upon it and became a foot-warmer, the unfolded
clothes-horse displayed a choice collection of halfpenny ballads
and became a screen, and the stool planted within it became his
post for the rest of the day.  All weathers saw the man at the post.
This is to be accepted in a double sense, for he contrived a back to
his wooden stool, by placing it against the lamp-post.  When the
weather was wet, he put up his umbrella over his stock in trade,
not over himself; when the weather was dry, he furled that faded
article, tied it round with a piece of yarn, and laid it cross-wise
under the trestles: where it looked like an unwholesomely-forced
lettuce that had lost in colour and crispness what it had gained in
size.

He had established his right to the corner, by imperceptible
prescription.  He had never varied his ground an inch, but had in
the beginning diffidently taken the corner upon which the side of
the house gave.  A howling corner in the winter time, a dusty
corner in the summer time, an undesirable corner at the best of
times.  Shelterless fragments of straw and paper got up revolving
storms there, when the main street was at peace; and the water-
cart, as if it were drunk or short-sighted, came blundering and
jolting round it, making it muddy when all else was clean.

On the front of his sale-board hung a little placard, like a kettle-
holder, bearing the inscription in his own small text:

     Errands gone
     On with fi
     Delity By
     Ladies and Gentlemen
     I remain
     Your humble Servt:
     Silas Wegg

He had not only settled it with himself in course of time, that he
was errand-goer by appointment to the house at the corner (though
he received such commissions not half a dozen times in a year, and
then only as some servant's deputy), but also that he was one of the
house's retainers and owed vassalage to it and was bound to leal
and loyal interest in it.  For this reason, he always spoke of it as
'Our House,' and, though his knowledge of its affairs was mostly
speculative and all wrong, claimed to be in its confidence.  On
similar grounds he never beheld an inmate at any one of its
windows but he touched his hat.  Yet, he knew so little about the
inmates that he gave them names of his own invention: as 'Miss
Elizabeth', 'Master George', 'Aunt Jane', 'Uncle Parker '--having no
authority whatever for any such designations, but particularly the
last--to which, as a natural consequence, he stuck with great obstinacy.

Over the house itself, he exercised the same imaginary power as
over its inhabitants and their affairs.  He had never been in it, the
length of a piece of fat black water-pipe which trailed itself over
the area-door into a damp stone passage, and had rather the air of a
leech on the house that had 'taken' wonderfully; but this was no
impediment to his arranging it according to a plan of his own.  It
was a great dingy house with a quantity of dim side window and
blank back premises, and it cost his mind a world of trouble so to
lay it out as to account for everything in its external appearance.
But, this once done, was quite satisfactory, and he rested
persuaded, that he knew his way about the house blindfold: from
the barred garrets in the high roof, to the two iron extinguishers
before the main door--which seemed to request all lively visitors to
have the kindness to put themselves out, before entering.

Assuredly, this stall of Silas Wegg's was the hardest little stall of
all the sterile little stalls in London.  It gave you the face-ache to
look at his apples, the stomach-ache to look at his oranges, the
tooth-ache to look at his nuts.  Of the latter commodity he had
always a grim little heap, on which lay a little wooden measure
which had no discernible inside, and was considered to represent
the penn'orth appointed by Magna Charta.  Whether from too
much east wind or no--it was an easterly corner--the stall, the
stock, and the keeper, were all as dry as the Desert.  Wegg was a
knotty man, and a close-grained, with a face carved out of very
hard material, that had just as much play of expression as a
watchman's rattle.  When he laughed, certain jerks occurred in it,
and the rattle sprung.  Sooth to say, he was so wooden a man that
he seemed to have taken his wooden leg naturally, and rather
suggested to the fanciful observer, that he might be expected--if his
development received no untimely check--to be completely set up
with a pair of wooden legs in about six months.

Mr Wegg was an observant person, or, as he himself said, 'took a
powerful sight of notice'.  He saluted all his regular passers-by
every day, as he sat on his stool backed up by the lamp-post; and
on the adaptable character of these salutes he greatly plumed
himself.  Thus, to the rector, he addressed a bow, compounded of
lay deference, and a slight touch of the shady preliminary
meditation at church; to the doctor, a confidential bow, as to a
gentleman whose acquaintance with his inside he begged
respectfully to acknowledge; before the Quality he delighted to
abase himself; and for Uncle Parker, who was in the army (at least,
so he had settled it), he put his open hand to the side of his hat,
in a military manner which that angry-eyed buttoned-up
inflammatory-faced old gentleman appeared but imperfectly to
appreciate.

The only article in which Silas dealt, that was not hard, was
gingerbread.  On a certain day, some wretched infant having
purchased the damp gingerbread-horse (fearfully out of condition),
and the adhesive bird-cage, which had been exposed for the day's sale,
he had taken a tin box from under his stool to produce a relay
of those dreadful specimens, and was going to look in at the lid,
when he said to himself, pausing: 'Oh!  Here you are again!'

The words referred to a broad, round-shouldered, one-sided old
fellow in mourning, coming comically ambling towards the corner,
dressed in a pea over-coat, and carrying a large stick.  He wore
thick shoes, and thick leather gaiters, and thick gloves like a
hedger's.  Both as to his dress and to himself, he was of an
overlapping rhinoceros build, with folds in his cheeks, and his
forehead, and his eyelids, and his lips, and his ears; but with
bright, eager, childishly-inquiring, grey eyes, under his ragged
eyebrows, and broad-brimmed hat.  A very odd-looking old fellow
altogether.

'Here you are again,' repeated Mr Wegg, musing.  'And what are
you now?  Are you in the Funns, or where are you?  Have you
lately come to settle in this neighbourhood, or do you own to
another neighbourhood?  Are you in independent circumstances, or
is it wasting the motions of a bow on you?  Come!  I'll speculate!
I'll invest a bow in you.'

Which Mr Wegg, having replaced his tin box, accordingly did, as
he rose to bait his gingerbread-trap for some other devoted infant.
The salute was acknowledged with:

'Morning, sir!  Morning!  Morning!'

('Calls me Sir!' said Mr Wegg, to himself; 'HE won't answer.  A
bow gone!')

'Morning, morning, morning!'

'Appears to be rather a 'arty old cock, too,' said Mr Wegg, as
before; 'Good morning to YOU, sir.'

'Do you remember me, then?' asked his new acquaintance,
stopping in his amble, one-sided, before the stall, and speaking in
a pounding way, though with great good-humour.

'I have noticed you go past our house, sir, several times in the
course of the last week or so.'

'Our house,' repeated the other.  'Meaning--?'

'Yes,' said Mr Wegg, nodding, as the other pointed the clumsy
forefinger of his right glove at the corner house.

'Oh!  Now, what,' pursued the old fellow, in an inquisitive manner,
carrying his knotted stick in his left arm as if it were a baby, 'what
do they allow you now?'

'It's job work that I do for our house,' returned Silas, drily, and with
reticence; 'it's not yet brought to an exact allowance.'

'Oh!  It's not yet brought to an exact allowance?  No!  It's not yet
brought to an exact allowance.  Oh!--Morning, morning, morning!'

'Appears to be rather a cracked old cock,' thought Silas, qualifying
his former good opinion, as the other ambled off.  But, in a
moment he was back again with the question:

'How did you get your wooden leg?'

Mr Wegg replied, (tartly to this personal inquiry), 'In an accident.'

'Do you like it?'

'Well!  I haven't got to keep it warm,' Mr Wegg made answer, in a
sort of desperation occasioned by the singularity of the question.

'He hasn't,' repeated the other to his knotted stick, as he gave it a
hug; 'he hasn't got--ha!--ha!--to keep it warm!  Did you ever hear of
the name of Boffin?'

'No,' said Mr Wegg, who was growing restive under this
examination.  'I never did hear of the name of Boffin.'

'Do you like it?'

'Why, no,' retorted Mr Wegg, again approaching desperation; 'I
can't say I do.'

'Why don't you like it?'

'I don't know why I don't,' retorted Mr Wegg, approaching frenzy,
'but I don't at all.'

'Now, I'll tell you something that'll make you sorry for that,' said
the stranger, smiling. 'My name's Boffin.'

'I can't help it!' returned Mr Wegg.  Implying in his manner the
offensive addition, 'and if I could, I wouldn't.'

'But there's another chance for you,' said Mr Boffin, smiling still,
'Do you like the name of Nicodemus?  Think it over.  Nick, or
Noddy.'

'It is not, sir,' Mr Wegg rejoined, as he sat down on his stool, with
an air of gentle resignation, combined with melancholy candour; it
is not a name as I could wish any one that I had a respect for, to
call ME by; but there may be persons that would not view it with
the same objections.--I don't know why,' Mr Wegg added,
anticipating another question.

'Noddy Boffin,' said that gentleman.  'Noddy.  That's my name.
Noddy--or Nick--Boffin.  What's your name?'

'Silas Wegg.--I don't,' said Mr Wegg, bestirring himself to take the
same precaution as before, 'I don't know why Silas, and I don't
know why Wegg.'

'Now, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin, hugging his stick closer, 'I want to
make a sort of offer to you.  Do you remember when you first see
me?'

The wooden Wegg looked at him with a meditative eye, and also
with a softened air as descrying possibility of profit.  'Let me think.
I ain't quite sure, and yet I generally take a powerful sight of
notice, too.  Was it on a Monday morning, when the butcher-boy
had been to our house for orders, and bought a ballad of me,
which, being unacquainted with the tune, I run it over to him?'

'Right, Wegg, right!  But he bought more than one.'

'Yes, to be sure, sir; he bought several; and wishing to lay out his
money to the best, he took my opinion to guide his choice, and we
went over the collection together.  To be sure we did.  Here was
him as it might be, and here was myself as it might be, and there
was you, Mr Boffin, as you identically are, with your self-same
stick under your very same arm, and your very same back towards
us.  To--be--sure!' added Mr Wegg, looking a little round Mr
Boffin, to take him in the rear, and identify this last extraordinary
coincidence, 'your wery self-same back!'

'What do you think I was doing, Wegg?'

'I should judge, sir, that you might be glancing your eye down the
street.'

'No, Wegg. I was a listening.'

'Was you, indeed?' said Mr Wegg, dubiously.

'Not in a dishonourable way, Wegg, because you was singing to
the butcher; and you wouldn't sing secrets to a butcher in the
street, you know.'

'It never happened that I did so yet, to the best of my
remembrance,' said Mr Wegg, cautiously.  'But I might do it.  A
man can't say what he might wish to do some day or another.'
(This, not to release any little advantage he might derive from Mr
Boffin's avowal.)

'Well,' repeated Boffin, 'I was a listening to you and to him.  And
what do you--you haven't got another stool, have you?  I'm rather
thick in my breath.'

'I haven't got another, but you're welcome to this,' said Wegg,
resigning it.  'It's a treat to me to stand.'

'Lard!' exclaimed Mr Boffin, in a tone of great enjoyment, as he
settled himself down, still nursing his stick like a baby, 'it's a
pleasant place, this!  And then to be shut in on each side, with
these ballads, like so many book-leaf blinkers!  Why, its
delightful!'

'If I am not mistaken, sir,' Mr Wegg delicately hinted, resting a
hand on his stall, and bending over the discursive Boffin, 'you
alluded to some offer or another that was in your mind?'

'I'm coming to it!  All right.  I'm coming to it!  I was going to say
that when I listened that morning, I listened with hadmiration
amounting to haw.  I thought to myself, "Here's a man with a
wooden leg--a literary man with--"'

'N--not exactly so, sir,' said Mr Wegg.

'Why, you know every one of these songs by name and by tune,
and if you want to read or to sing any one on 'em off straight,
you've only to whip on your spectacles and do it!' cried Mr Boffin.
'I see you at it!'

'Well, sir,' returned Mr Wegg, with a conscious inclination of the
head; 'we'll say literary, then.'

'"A literary man--WITH a wooden leg--and all Print is open to
him!"  That's what I thought to myself, that morning,' pursued Mr
Boffin, leaning forward to describe, uncramped by the
clotheshorse, as large an arc as his right arm could make; '"all
Print is open to him!"  And it is, ain't it?'

'Why, truly, sir,' Mr Wegg admitted, with modesty; 'I believe you
couldn't show me the piece of English print, that I wouldn't be
equal to collaring and throwing.'

'On the spot?' said Mr Boffin.

'On the spot.'

'I know'd it!  Then consider this.  Here am I, a man without a
wooden leg, and yet all print is shut to me.'

'Indeed, sir?' Mr Wegg returned with increasing self-complacency.
'Education neglected?'

'Neg--lected!' repeated Boffin, with emphasis.  'That ain't no word
for it.  I don't mean to say but what if you showed me a B, I could
so far give you change for it, as to answer Boffin.'

'Come, come, sir,' said Mr Wegg, throwing in a little
encouragement, 'that's something, too.'

'It's something,' answered Mr Boffin, 'but I'll take my oath it ain't
much.'

'Perhaps it's not as much as could be wished by an inquiring mind,
sir,' Mr Wegg admitted.

'Now, look here.  I'm retired from business.  Me and Mrs Boffin--
Henerietty Boffin--which her father's name was Henery, and her
mother's name was Hetty, and so you get it--we live on a
compittance, under the will of a diseased governor.'

'Gentleman dead, sir?'

'Man alive, don't I tell you?  A diseased governor?  Now, it's too
late for me to begin shovelling and sifting at alphabeds and
grammar-books.  I'm getting to be a old bird, and I want to take it
easy.  But I want some reading--some fine bold reading, some
splendid book in a gorging Lord-Mayor's-Show of wollumes'
(probably meaning gorgeous, but misled by association of ideas);
'as'll reach right down your pint of view, and take time to go by
you.  How can I get that reading, Wegg?  By,' tapping him on the
breast with the head of his thick stick, 'paying a man truly qualified
to do it, so much an hour (say twopence) to come and do it.'

'Hem!  Flattered, sir, I am sure,' said Wegg, beginning to regard
himself in quite a new light.  'Hew!  This is the offer you
mentioned, sir?'

'Yes.  Do you like it?'

'I am considering of it, Mr Boffin.'

'I don't,' said Boffin, in a free-handed manner, 'want to tie a literary
man--WITH a wooden leg--down too tight.  A halfpenny an hour
shan't part us.  The hours are your own to choose, after you've done
for the day with your house here.  I live over Maiden-Lane way--
out Holloway direction--and you've only got to go East-and-by-
North when you've finished here, and you're there.  Twopence
halfpenny an hour,' said Boffin, taking a piece of chalk from his
pocket and getting off the stool to work the sum on the top of it in
his own way; 'two long'uns and a short'un--twopence halfpenny;
two short'uns is a long'un and two two long'uns is four long'uns--
making five long'uns; six nights a week at five long'uns a night,'
scoring them all down separately, 'and you mount up to thirty
long'uns.  A round'un!  Half a crown!'

Pointing to this result as a large and satisfactory one, Mr Boffin
smeared it out with his moistened glove, and sat down on the
remains.

'Half a crown,' said Wegg, meditating.  'Yes.  (It ain't much, sir.)
Half a crown.'

'Per week, you know.'

'Per week.  Yes.  As to the amount of strain upon the intellect now.
Was you thinking at all of poetry?' Mr Wegg inquired, musing.

'Would it come dearer?' Mr Boffin asked.

'It would come dearer,' Mr Wegg returned.  'For when a person
comes to grind off poetry night after night, it is but right he should
expect to be paid for its weakening effect on his mind.'

'To tell you the truth Wegg,' said Boffin, 'I wasn't thinking of
poetry, except in so fur as this:--If you was to happen now and then
to feel yourself in the mind to tip me and Mrs Boffin one of your
ballads, why then we should drop into poetry.'

'I follow you, sir,' said Wegg.  'But not being a regular musical
professional, I should be loath to engage myself for that; and
therefore when I dropped into poetry, I should ask to be considered
so fur, in the light of a friend.'

At this, Mr Boffin's eyes sparkled, and he shook Silas earnestly by
the hand: protesting that it was more than he could have asked,
and that he took it very kindly indeed.

'What do you think of the terms, Wegg?' Mr Boffin then
demanded, with unconcealed anxiety.

Silas, who had stimulated this anxiety by his hard reserve of
manner, and who had begun to understand his man very well,
replied with an air; as if he were saying something extraordinarily
generous and great:

'Mr Boffin, I never bargain.'

'So I should have thought of you!' said Mr Boffin, admiringly.  'No,
sir.  I never did 'aggle and I never will 'aggle.  Consequently I meet
you at once, free and fair, with--Done, for double the money!'

Mr Boffin seemed a little unprepared for this conclusion, but
assented, with the remark, 'You know better what it ought to be
than I do, Wegg,' and again shook hands with him upon it.

'Could you begin to night, Wegg?' he then demanded.

'Yes, sir,' said Mr Wegg, careful to leave all the eagerness to him.
'I see no difficulty if you wish it.  You are provided with the
needful implement--a book, sir?'

'Bought him at a sale,' said Mr Boffin.  'Eight wollumes.  Red and
gold.  Purple ribbon in every wollume, to keep the place where you
leave off.  Do you know him?'

'The book's name, sir?' inquired Silas.

'I thought you might have know'd him without it,' said Mr Boffin
slightly disappointed.  'His name is Decline-And-Fall-Off-The-
Rooshan-Empire.'  (Mr Boffin went over these stones slowly and
with much caution.)

'Ay indeed!' said Mr Wegg, nodding his head with an air of
friendly recognition.

'You know him, Wegg?'

'I haven't been not to say right slap through him, very lately,' Mr
Wegg made answer, 'having been otherways employed, Mr Boffin.
But know him?  Old familiar declining and falling off the
Rooshan?  Rather, sir!  Ever since I was not so high as your stick.
Ever since my eldest brother left our cottage to enlist into the army.
On which occasion, as the ballad that was made about it describes:

     'Beside that cottage door, Mr Boffin,
        A girl was on her knees;
     She held aloft a snowy scarf, Sir,
        Which (my eldest brother noticed) fluttered in the breeze.
     She breathed a prayer for him, Mr Boffin;
        A prayer he coold not hear.
     And my eldest brother lean'd upon his sword, Mr Boffin,
         And wiped away a tear.'

Much impressed by this family circumstance, and also by the
friendly disposition of Mr Wegg, as exemplified in his so soon
dropping into poetry, Mr Boffin again shook hands with that
ligneous sharper, and besought him to name his hour.  Mr Wegg
named eight.

'Where I live,' said Mr Boffin, 'is called The Bower.  Boffin's
Bower is the name Mrs Boffin christened it when we come into it
as a property.  If you should meet with anybody that don't know it
by that name (which hardly anybody does), when you've got nigh
upon about a odd mile, or say and a quarter if you like, up Maiden
Lane, Battle Bridge, ask for Harmony Jail, and you'll be put right.
I shall expect you, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin, clapping him on the
shoulder with the greatest enthusiasm, 'most joyfully.  I shall have
no peace or patience till you come.  Print is now opening ahead of
me.  This night, a literary man--WITH a wooden leg--' he
bestowed an admiring look upon that decoration, as if it greatly
enhanced the relish of Mr Wegg's attainments--'will begin to lead
me a new life!  My fist again, Wegg.  Morning, morning, morning!'

Left alone at his stall as the other ambled off, Mr Wegg subsided
into his screen, produced a small pocket-handkerchief of a
penitentially-scrubbing character, and took himself by the nose
with a thoughtful aspect.  Also, while he still grasped that feature,
he directed several thoughtful looks down the street, after the
retiring figure of Mr Boffin.  But, profound gravity sat enthroned
on Wegg's countenance.  For, while he considered within himself
that this was an old fellow of rare simplicity, that this was an
opportunity to be improved, and that here might be money to be
got beyond present calculation, still he compromised himself by no
admission that his new engagement was at all out of his way, or
involved the least element of the ridiculous.  Mr Wegg would even
have picked a handsome quarrel with any one who should have
challenged his deep acquaintance with those aforesaid eight
volumes of Decline and Fall.  His gravity was unusual, portentous,
and immeasurable, not because he admitted any doubt of himself
but because he perceived it necessary to forestall any doubt of
himself in others.  And herein he ranged with that very numerous
class of impostors, who are quite as determined to keep up
appearances to themselves, as to their neighbours.

A certain loftiness, likewise, took possession of Mr Wegg; a
condescending sense of being in request as an official expounder of
mysteries.  It did not move him to commercial greatness, but rather
to littleness, insomuch that if it had been within the possibilities of
things for the wooden measure to hold fewer nuts than usual, it
would have done so that day.  But, when night came, and with her
veiled eyes beheld him stumping towards Boffin's Bower, he was
elated too.

The Bower was as difficult to find, as Fair Rosamond's without the
clue.  Mr Wegg, having reached the quarter indicated, inquired for
the Bower half a dozen times without the least success, until he
remembered to ask for Harmony Jail.  This occasioned a quick
change in the spirits of a hoarse gentleman and a donkey, whom he
had much perplexed.

'Why, yer mean Old Harmon's, do yer?' said the hoarse gentleman,
who was driving his donkey in a truck, with a carrot for a whip.
'Why didn't yer niver say so?  Eddard and me is a goin' by HIM!
Jump in.'

Mr Wegg complied, and the hoarse gentleman invited his attention
to the third person in company, thus;

'Now, you look at Eddard's ears.  What was it as you named, agin?
Whisper.'

Mr Wegg whispered, 'Boffin's Bower.'

'Eddard! (keep yer hi on his ears) cut away to Boffin's Bower!'

Edward, with his ears lying back, remained immoveable.

'Eddard! (keep yer hi on his ears) cut away to Old Harmon's.'
Edward instantly pricked up his ears to their utmost, and rattled off
at such a pace that Mr Wegg's conversation was jolted out of him
in a most dislocated state.

'Was-it-Ev-verajail?' asked Mr Wegg, holding on.

'Not a proper jail, wot you and me would get committed to,'
returned his escort; 'they giv' it the name, on accounts of Old
Harmon living solitary there.'

'And-why-did-they-callitharm-Ony?' asked Wegg.

'On accounts of his never agreeing with nobody.  Like a speeches
of chaff.  Harmon's Jail; Harmony Jail.  Working it round like.'

'Doyouknow-Mist-Erboff-in?' asked Wegg.

'I should think so!  Everybody do about here.  Eddard knows him.
(Keep yer hi on his ears.)  Noddy Boffin, Eddard!'

The effect of the name was so very alarming, in respect of causing
a temporary disappearance of Edward's head, casting his hind
hoofs in the air, greatly accelerating the pace and increasing the
jolting, that Mr Wegg was fain to devote his attention exclusively
to holding on, and to relinquish his desire of ascertaining whether
this homage to Boffin was to be considered complimentary or the
reverse.

Presently, Edward stopped at a gateway, and Wegg discreetly lost
no time in slipping out at the back of the truck.  The moment he
was landed, his late driver with a wave of the carrot, said 'Supper,
Eddard!' and he, the hind hoofs, the truck, and Edward, all seemed
to fly into the air together, in a kind of apotheosis.

Pushing the gate, which stood ajar, Wegg looked into an enclosed
space where certain tall dark mounds rose high against the sky,
and where the pathway to the Bower was indicated, as the
moonlight showed, between two lines of broken crockery set in
ashes.  A white figure advancing along this path, proved to be
nothing more ghostly than Mr Boffin, easily attired for the pursuit
of knowledge, in an undress garment of short white smock-frock.
Having received his literary friend with great cordiality, he
conducted him to the interior of the Bower and there presented him
to Mrs Boffin:--a stout lady of a rubicund and cheerful aspect,
dressed (to Mr Wegg's consternation) in a low evening-dress of
sable satin, and a large black velvet hat and feathers.

'Mrs Boffin, Wegg,' said Boffin, 'is a highflyer at Fashion.  And
her make is such, that she does it credit.  As to myself I ain't yet as
Fash'nable as I may come to be.  Henerietty, old lady, this is the
gentleman that's a going to decline and fall off the Rooshan
Empire.'

'And I am sure I hope it'll do you both good,' said Mrs Boffin.

It was the queerest of rooms, fitted and furnished more like a
luxurious amateur tap-room than anything else within the ken of
Silas Wegg.  There were two wooden settles by the fire, one on
either side of it, with a corresponding table before each.  On one of
these tables, the eight volumes were ranged flat, in a row, like a
galvanic battery; on the other, certain squat case-bottles of inviting
appearance seemed to stand on tiptoe to exchange glances with Mr
Wegg over a front row of tumblers and a basin of white sugar.  On
the hob, a kettle steamed; on the hearth, a cat reposed.  Facing the
fire between the settles, a sofa, a footstool, and a little table,
formed a centrepiece devoted to Mrs Boffin.  They were garish in
taste and colour, but were expensive articles of drawing-room
furniture that had a very odd look beside the settles and the flaring
gaslight pendent from the ceiling.  There was a flowery carpet on
the floor; but, instead of reaching to the fireside, its glowing
vegetation stopped short at Mrs Boffin's footstool, and gave place
to a region of sand and sawdust.  Mr Wegg also noticed, with
admiring eyes, that, while the flowery land displayed such hollow
ornamentation as stuffed birds and waxen fruits under glass-
shades, there were, in the territory where vegetation ceased,
compensatory shelves on which the best part of a large pie and
likewise of a cold joint were plainly discernible among other
solids.  The room itself was large, though low; and the heavy
frames of its old-fashioned windows, and the heavy beams in its
crooked ceiling, seemed to indicate that it had once been a house of
some mark standing alone in the country.

'Do you like it, Wegg?' asked Mr Boffin, in his pouncing manner.

'I admire it greatly, sir,' said Wegg.  'Peculiar comfort at this
fireside, sir.'

'Do you understand it, Wegg?'

'Why, in a general way, sir,' Mr Wegg was beginning slowly and
knowingly, with his head stuck on one side, as evasive people do
begin, when the other cut him short:

'You DON'T understand it, Wegg, and I'll explain it.  These
arrangements is made by mutual consent between Mrs Boffin and
me.  Mrs Boffin, as I've mentioned, is a highflyer at Fashion; at
present I'm not.  I don't go higher than comfort, and comfort of the
sort that I'm equal to the enjoyment of.  Well then.  Where would
be the good of Mrs Boffin and me quarrelling over it?  We never
did quarrel, before we come into Boffin's Bower as a property; why
quarrel when we HAVE come into Boffin's Bower as a property?
So Mrs Boffin, she keeps up her part of the room, in her way; I
keep up my part of the room in mine.  In consequence of which we
have at once, Sociability (I should go melancholy mad without Mrs
Boffin), Fashion, and Comfort.  If I get by degrees to be a higher-
flyer at Fashion, then Mrs Boffin will by degrees come for'arder.  If
Mrs Boffin should ever be less of a dab at Fashion than she is at
the present time, then Mrs Boffin's carpet would go back'arder.  If
we should both continny as we are, why then HERE we are, and
give us a kiss, old lady.'

Mrs Boffin who, perpetually smiling, had approached and drawn
her plump arm through her lord's, most willingly complied.
Fashion, in the form of her black velvet hat and feathers, tried to
prevent it; but got deservedly crushed in the endeavour.

'So now, Wegg,' said Mr Boffin, wiping his mouth with an air of
much refreshment, 'you begin to know us as we are.  This is a
charming spot, is the Bower, but you must get to apprechiate it by
degrees.  It's a spot to find out the merits of; little by little, and a
new'un every day.  There's a serpentining walk up each of the
mounds, that gives you the yard and neighbourhood changing
every moment.  When you get to the top, there's a view of the
neighbouring premises, not to be surpassed.  The premises of Mrs
Boffin's late father (Canine Provision Trade), you look down into,
as if they was your own.  And the top of the High Mound is
crowned with a lattice-work Arbour, in which, if you don't read out
loud many a book in the summer, ay, and as a friend, drop many a
time into poetry too, it shan't be my fault.  Now, what'll you read
on?'

'Thank you, sir,' returned Wegg, as if there were nothing new in his
reading at all.  'I generally do it on gin and water.'

'Keeps the organ moist, does it, Wegg?' asked Mr Boffin, with
innocent eagerness.

'N-no, sir,' replied Wegg, coolly, 'I should hardly describe it so, sir.
I should say, mellers it.  Mellers it, is the word I should employ,
Mr Boffin.'

His wooden conceit and craft kept exact pace with the delighted
expectation of his victim.  The visions rising before his mercenary
mind, of the many ways in which this connexion was to be turned
to account, never obscured the foremost idea natural to a dull
overreaching man, that he must not make himself too cheap.

Mrs Boffin's Fashion, as a less inexorable deity than the idol
usually worshipped under that name, did not forbid her mixing for
her literary guest, or asking if he found the result to his liking.  On
his returning a gracious answer and taking his place at the literary
settle, Mr Boffin began to compose himself as a listener, at the
opposite settle, with exultant eyes.

'Sorry to deprive you of a pipe, Wegg,' he said, filling his own, 'but
you can't do both together.  Oh! and another thing I forgot to name!
When you come in here of an evening, and look round you, and
notice anything on a shelf that happens to catch your fancy,
mention it.'

Wegg, who had been going to put on his spectacles, immediately
laid them down, with the sprightly observation:

'You read my thoughts, sir.  DO my eyes deceive me, or is that
object up there a--a pie?  It can't be a pie.'

'Yes, it's a pie, Wegg,' replied Mr Boffin, with a glance of some
little discomfiture at the Decline and Fall.

'HAVE I lost my smell for fruits, or is it a apple pie, sir?' asked
Wegg.

'It's a veal and ham pie,' said Mr Boffin.

'Is it indeed, sir?  And it would be hard, sir, to name the pie that is
a better pie than a weal and hammer,' said Mr Wegg, nodding his
head emotionally.

'Have some, Wegg?'

'Thank you, Mr Boffin, I think I will, at your invitation.  I wouldn't
at any other party's, at the present juncture; but at yours, sir!--And
meaty jelly too, especially when a little salt, which is the case
where there's ham, is mellering to the organ, is very mellering to
the organ.'  Mr Wegg did not say what organ, but spoke with a
cheerful generality.

So, the pie was brought down, and the worthy Mr Boffin exercised
his patience until Wegg, in the exercise of his knife and fork, had
finished the dish: only profiting by the opportunity to inform Wegg
that although it was not strictly Fashionable to keep the contents of
a larder thus exposed to view, he (Mr Boffin) considered it
hospitable; for the reason, that instead of saying, in a
comparatively unmeaning manner, to a visitor, 'There are such and
such edibles down stairs; will you have anything up?' you took the
bold practical course of saying, 'Cast your eye along the shelves,
and, if you see anything you like there, have it down.'

And now, Mr Wegg at length pushed away his plate and put on his
spectacles, and Mr Boffin lighted his pipe and looked with
beaming eyes into the opening world before him, and Mrs Boffin
reclined in a fashionable manner on her sofa: as one who would be
part of the audience if she found she could, and would go to sleep
if she found she couldn't.

'Hem!' began Wegg,  'This, Mr Boffin and Lady, is the first chapter
of the first wollume of the Decline and Fall off--' here he looked
hard at the book, and stopped.

'What's the matter, Wegg?'

'Why, it comes into my mind, do you know, sir,' said Wegg with
an air of insinuating frankness (having first again looked hard at
the book), 'that you made a little mistake this morning, which I had
meant to set you right in, only something put it out of my head.  I
think you said Rooshan Empire, sir?'

'It is Rooshan; ain't it, Wegg?'

'No, sir.  Roman.  Roman.'

'What's the difference, Wegg?'

'The difference, sir?'  Mr Wegg was faltering and in danger of
breaking down, when a bright thought flashed upon him.  'The
difference, sir?  There you place me in a difficulty, Mr Boffin.
Suffice it to observe, that the difference is best postponed to some
other occasion when Mrs Boffin does not honour us with her
company.  In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop it.'

Mr Wegg thus came out of his disadvantage with quite a
chivalrous air, and not only that, but by dint of repeating with a
manly delicacy, 'In Mrs Boffin's presence, sir, we had better drop
it!' turned the disadvantage on Boffin, who felt that he had
committed himself in a very painful manner.

Then, Mr Wegg, in a dry unflinching way, entered on his task;
going straight across country at everything that came before him;
taking all the hard words, biographical and geographical; getting
rather shaken by Hadrian, Trajan, and the Antonines; stumbling at
Polybius (pronounced Polly Beeious, and supposed by Mr Boffin to
be a Roman virgin, and by Mrs Boffin to be responsible for that
necessity of dropping it); heavily unseated by Titus Antoninus
Pius; up again and galloping smoothly with Augustus; finally,
getting over the ground well with Commodus: who, under the
appellation of Commodious, was held by Mr Boffin to have been
quite unworthy of his English origin, and 'not to have acted up to
his name' in his government of the Roman people.  With the death
of this personage, Mr Wegg terminated his first reading; long
before which consummation several total eclipses of Mrs Boffin's
candle behind her black velvet disc, would have been very
alarming, but for being regularly accompanied by a potent smell of
burnt pens when her feathers took fire, which acted as a restorative
and woke her.  Mr Wegg, having read on by rote and attached as
few ideas as possible to the text, came out of the encounter fresh;
but, Mr Boffin, who had soon laid down his unfinished pipe, and
had ever since sat intently staring with his eyes and mind at the
confounding enormities of the Romans, was so severely punished
that he could hardly wish his literary friend Good-night, and
articulate 'Tomorrow.'

'Commodious,' gasped Mr Boffin, staring at the moon, after
letting Wegg out at the gate and fastening it: 'Commodious fights
in that wild-beast-show, seven hundred and thirty-five times, in
one character only!  As if that wasn't stunning enough, a hundred
lions is turned into the same wild-beast-show all at once!  As if
that wasn't stunning enough, Commodious, in another character,
kills 'em all off in a hundred goes!  As if that wasn't stunning
enough, Vittle-us (and well named too) eats six millions' worth,
English money, in seven months!  Wegg takes it easy, but upon-
my-soul to a old bird like myself these are scarers.  And even now
that Commodious is strangled, I don't see a way to our bettering
ourselves.'  Mr Boffin added as he turned his pensive steps towards
the Bower and shook his head, 'I didn't think this morning there
was half so many Scarers in Print.  But I'm in for it now!'



Chapter 6

CUT ADRIFT


The Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, already mentioned as a tavern of
a dropsical appearance, had long settled down into a state of hale
infirmity.  In its whole constitution it had not a straight floor, and
hardly a straight line; but it had outlasted, and clearly would yet
outlast, many a better-trimmed building, many a sprucer public-
house.  Externally, it was a narrow lopsided wooden jumble of
corpulent windows heaped one upon another as you might heap as
many toppling oranges, with a crazy wooden verandah impending
over the water; indeed the whole house, inclusive of the
complaining flag-staff on the roof, impended over the water, but
seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver who
has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.

This description applies to the river-frontage of the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters.  The back of the establishment, though the
chief entrance was there, so contracted that it merely represented in
its connexion with the front, the handle of a flat iron set upright on
its broadest end.  This handle stood at the bottom of a wilderness
of court and alley: which wilderness pressed so hard and close
upon the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters as to leave the hostelry not
an inch of ground beyond its door.  For this reason, in combination
with the fact that the house was all but afloat at high water, when
the Porters had a family wash the linen subjected to that operation
might usually be seen drying on lines stretched across the
reception-rooms and bed-chambers.

The wood forming the chimney-pieces, beams, partitions, floors
and doors, of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, seemed in its old
age fraught with confused memories of its youth.  In many places it
had become gnarled and riven, according to the manner of old
trees; knots started out of it; and here and there it seemed to twist
itself into some likeness of boughs.  In this state of second
childhood, it had an air of being in its own way garrulous about its
early life.  Not without reason was it often asserted by the regular
frequenters of the Porters, that when the light shone full upon the
grain of certain panels, and particularly upon an old corner
cupboard of walnut-wood in the bar, you might trace little forests
there, and tiny trees like the parent tree, in full umbrageous leaf.

The bar of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters was a bar to soften the
human breast.  The available space in it was not much larger than
a hackney-coach; but no one could have wished the bar bigger, that
space was so girt in by corpulent little casks, and by cordial-bottles
radiant with fictitious grapes in bunches, and by lemons in nets,
and by biscuits in baskets, and by the polite beer-pulls that made
low bows when customers were served with beer, and by the
cheese in a snug corner, and by the landlady's own small table in a
snugger corner near the fire, with the cloth everlastingly laid.  This
haven was divided from the rough world by a glass partition and a
half-door, with a leaden sill upon it for the convenience of resting
your liquor; but, over this half-door the bar's snugness so gushed
forth that, albeit customers drank there standing, in a dark and
draughty passage where they were shouldered by other customers
passing in and out, they always appeared to drink under an
enchanting delusion that they were in the bar itself.

For the rest, both the tap and parlour of the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters gave upon the river, and had red curtains matching the
noses of the regular customers, and were provided with
comfortable fireside tin utensils, like models of sugar-loaf hats,
made in that shape that they might, with their pointed ends, seek
out for themselves glowing nooks in the depths of the red coals,
when they mulled your ale, or heated for you those delectable
drinks, Purl, Flip, and Dog's Nose.  The first of these humming
compounds was a speciality of the Porters, which, through an
inscription on its door-posts, gently appealed to your feelings as,
'The Early Purl House'.  For, it would seem that Purl must always
be taken early; though whether for any more distinctly stomachic
reason than that, as the early bird catches the worm, so the early
purl catches the customer, cannot here be resolved.  It only remains
to add that in the handle of the flat iron, and opposite the bar, was
a very little room like a three-cornered hat, into which no direct ray
of sun, moon, or star, ever penetrated, but which was
superstitiously regarded as a sanctuary replete with comfort and
retirement by gaslight, and on the door of which was therefore
painted its alluring name: Cosy.

Miss Potterson, sole proprietor and manager of the Fellowship
Porters, reigned supreme on her throne, the Bar, and a man must
have drunk himself mad drunk indeed if he thought he could
contest a point with her.  Being known on her own authority as
Miss Abbey Potterson, some water-side heads, which (like the
water) were none of the clearest, harboured muddled notions that,
because of her dignity and firmness, she was named after, or in
some sort related to, the Abbey at Westminster.  But, Abbey was
only short for Abigail, by which name Miss Potterson had been
christened at Limehouse Church, some sixty and odd years before.

'Now, you mind, you Riderhood,' said Miss Abbey Potterson, with
emphatic forefinger over the half-door, 'the Fellowship don't want
you at all, and would rather by far have your room than your
company; but if you were as welcome here as you are not, you
shouldn't even then have another drop of drink here this night, after
this present pint of beer.  So make the most of it.'

'But you know, Miss Potterson,' this was suggested very meekly
though, 'if I behave myself, you can't help serving me, miss.'

'CAN'T I!' said Abbey, with infinite expression.

'No, Miss Potterson; because, you see, the law--'

'I am the law here, my man,' returned Miss Abbey, 'and I'll soon
convince you of that, if you doubt it at all.'

'I never said I did doubt it at all, Miss Abbey.'

'So much the better for you.'

Abbey the supreme threw the customer's halfpence into the till,
and, seating herself in her fireside-chair, resumed the newspaper
she had been reading.  She was a tall, upright, well-favoured
woman, though severe of countenance, and had more of the air of a
schoolmistress than mistress of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters.
The man on the other side of the half-door, was a waterside-man
with a squinting leer, and he eyed her as if he were one of her
pupils in disgrace.

'You're cruel hard upon me, Miss Potterson.'

Miss Potterson read her newspaper with contracted brows, and
took no notice until he whispered:

'Miss Potterson!  Ma'am!  Might I have half a word with you?'

Deigning then to turn her eyes sideways towards the suppliant,
Miss Potterson beheld him knuckling his low forehead, and
ducking at her with his head, as if he were asking leave to fling
himself head foremost over the half-door and alight on his feet in
the bar.

'Well?' said Miss Potterson, with a manner as short as she herself
was long, 'say your half word.  Bring it out.'

'Miss Potterson!  Ma'am!  Would you 'sxcuse me taking the liberty
of asking, is it my character that you take objections to?'

'Certainly,' said Miss Potterson.

'Is it that you're afraid of--'

'I am not afraid OF YOU,' interposed Miss Potterson, 'if you mean
that.'

'But I humbly don't mean that, Miss Abbey.'

'Then what do you mean?'

'You really are so cruel hard upon me!  What I was going to make
inquiries was no more than, might you have any apprehensions--
leastways beliefs or suppositions--that the company's property
mightn't be altogether to be considered safe, if I used the house too
regular?'

'What do you want to know for?'

'Well, Miss Abbey, respectfully meaning no offence to you, it
would be some satisfaction to a man's mind, to understand why the
Fellowship Porters is not to be free to such as me, and is to be free
to such as Gaffer.'

The face of the hostess darkened with some shadow of perplexity,
as she replied: 'Gaffer has never been where you have been.'

'Signifying in Quod, Miss?  Perhaps not.  But he may have merited
it.  He may be suspected of far worse than ever I was.'

'Who suspects him?'

'Many, perhaps.  One, beyond all doubts.  I do.'

'YOU are not much,' said Miss Abbey Potterson, knitting her
brows again with disdain.

'But I was his pardner.  Mind you, Miss Abbey, I was his pardner.
As such I know more of the ins and outs of him than any person
living does.  Notice this!  I am the man that was his pardner, and I
am the man that suspects him.'

'Then,' suggested Miss Abbey, though with a deeper shade of
perplexity than before, 'you criminate yourself.'

'No I don't, Miss Abbey.  For how does it stand?  It stands this
way.  When I was his pardner, I couldn't never give him
satisfaction.  Why couldn't I never give him satisfaction?  Because
my luck was bad; because I couldn't find many enough of 'em.
How was his luck?  Always good.  Notice this!  Always good!  Ah!
There's a many games, Miss Abbey, in which there's chance, but
there's a many others in which there's skill too, mixed along with it.'

'That Gaffer has a skill in finding what he finds, who doubts,
man?' asked Miss Abbey.

'A skill in purwiding what he finds, perhaps,' said Riderhood,
shaking his evil head.

Miss Abbey knitted her brow at him, as he darkly leered at her.  'If
you're out upon the river pretty nigh every tide, and if you want to
find a man or woman in the river, you'll greatly help your luck,
Miss Abbey, by knocking a man or woman on the head aforehand
and pitching 'em in.'

'Gracious Lud!' was the involuntary exclamation of Miss Potterson.

'Mind you!' returned the other, stretching forward over the half
door to throw his words into the bar; for his voice was as if the
head of his boat's mop were down his throat; 'I say so, Miss
Abbey!  And mind you!  I'll follow him up, Miss Abbey!  And
mind you!  I'll bring him to hook at last, if it's twenty year hence, I
will!  Who's he, to be favoured along of his daughter?  Ain't I got a
daughter of my own!'

With that flourish, and seeming to have talked himself rather more
drunk and much more ferocious than he had begun by being, Mr
Riderhood took up his pint pot and swaggered off to the taproom.

Gaffer was not there, but a pretty strong muster of Miss Abbey's
pupils were, who exhibited, when occasion required, the greatest
docility.  On the clock's striking ten, and Miss Abbey's appearing
at the door, and addressing a certain person in a faded scarlet
jacket, with 'George Jones, your time's up!  I told your wife you
should be punctual,' Jones submissively rose, gave the company
good-night, and retired.  At half-past ten, on Miss Abbey's looking
in again, and saying, 'William Williams, Bob Glamour, and
Jonathan, you are all due,'  Williams, Bob, and Jonathan with
similar meekness took their leave and evaporated.  Greater wonder
than these, when a bottle-nosed person in a glazed hat had after
some considerable hesitation ordered another glass of gin and
water of the attendant potboy, and when Miss Abbey, instead of
sending it, appeared in person, saying, 'Captain Joey, you have had
as much as will do you good,' not only did the captain feebly rub
his knees and contemplate the fire without offering a word of
protest, but the rest of the company murmured, 'Ay, ay, Captain!
Miss Abbey's right; you be guided by Miss Abbey, Captain.'  Nor,
was Miss Abbey's vigilance in anywise abated by this submission,
but rather sharpened; for, looking round on the deferential faces of
her school, and descrying two other young persons in need of
admonition, she thus bestowed it: 'Tom Tootle, it's time for a
young fellow who's going to be married next month, to be at home
and asleep.  And you needn't nudge him, Mr Jack Mullins, for I
know your work begins early tomorrow, and I say the same to you.
So come!  Good-night, like good lads!'  Upon which, the blushing
Tootle looked to Mullins, and the blushing Mullins looked to
Tootle, on the question who should rise first, and finally both rose
together and went out on the broad grin, followed by Miss Abbey;
in whose presence the company did not take the liberty of grinning
likewise.

In such an establishment, the white-aproned pot-boy with his shirt-
sleeves arranged in a tight roll on each bare shoulder, was a mere
hint of the possibility of physical force, thrown out as a matter of
state and form.  Exactly at the closing hour, all the guests who
were left, filed out in the best order: Miss Abbey standing at the
half door of the bar, to hold a ceremony of review and dismissal.
All wished Miss Abbey good-night and Miss Abbey wished good-
night to all, except Riderhood.  The sapient pot-boy, looking on
officially, then had the conviction borne in upon his soul, that the
man was evermore outcast and excommunicate from the Six Jolly
Fellowship Porters.

'You Bob Gliddery,' said Miss Abbey to this pot-boy, 'run round to
Hexam's and tell his daughter Lizzie that I want to speak to her.'

With exemplary swiftness Bob Gliddery departed, and returned.
Lizzie, following him, arrived as one of the two female domestics
of the Fellowship Porters arranged on the snug little table by the
bar fire, Miss Potterson's supper of hot sausages and mashed
potatoes.

'Come in and sit ye down, girl,' said Miss Abbey.  'Can you eat a
bit?'

'No thank you, Miss.  I have had my supper.'

'I have had mine too, I think,' said Miss Abbey, pushing away the
untasted dish, 'and more than enough of it.  I am put out, Lizzie.'

'I am very sorry for it, Miss.'

'Then why, in the name of Goodness,' quoth Miss Abbey, sharply,
'do you do it?'

'I do it, Miss!'

'There, there.  Don't look astonished.  I ought to have begun with a
word of explanation, but it's my way to make short cuts at things.  I
always was a pepperer.  You Bob Gliddery there, put the chain
upon the door and get ye down to your supper.'

With an alacrity that seemed no less referable to the pepperer fact
than to the supper fact, Bob obeyed, and his boots were heard
descending towards the bed of the river.

'Lizzie Hexam, Lizzie Hexam,' then began Miss Potterson, 'how
often have I held out to you the opportunity of getting clear of your
father, and doing well?'

'Very often, Miss.'

'Very often?  Yes!  And I might as well have spoken to the iron
funnel of the strongest sea-going steamer that passes the
Fellowship Porters.'

'No, Miss,' Lizzie pleaded; 'because that would not be thankful,
and I am.'

'I vow and declare I am half ashamed of myself for taking such an
interest in you,' said Miss Abbey, pettishly, 'for I don't believe I
should do it if you were not good-looking.  Why ain't you ugly?'

Lizzie merely answered this difficult question with an apologetic
glance.

'However, you ain't,' resumed Miss Potterson, 'so it's no use going
into that.  I must take you as I find you.  Which indeed is what I've
done.  And you mean to say you are still obstinate?'

'Not obstinate, Miss, I hope.'

'Firm (I suppose you call it) then?'

'Yes, Miss.  Fixed like.'

'Never was an obstinate person yet, who would own to the word!'
remarked Miss Potterson, rubbing her vexed nose; 'I'm sure I
would, if I was obstinate; but I am a pepperer, which is different.
Lizzie Hexam, Lizzie Hexam, think again.  Do you know the worst
of your father?'

'Do I know the worst of father!' she repeated, opening her eyes. 'Do
you know the suspicions to which your father makes himself
liable?  Do you know the suspicions that are actually about,
against him?'

The consciousness of what he habitually did, oppressed the girl
heavily, and she slowly cast down her eyes.

'Say, Lizzie.  Do you know?' urged Miss Abbey.

'Please to tell me what the suspicions are, Miss,' she asked after a
silence, with her eyes upon the ground.

'It's not an easy thing to tell a daughter, but it must be told.  It is
thought by some, then, that your father helps to their death a few of
those that he finds dead.'

The relief of hearing what she felt sure was a false suspicion, in
place of the expected real and true one, so lightened Lizzie's breast
for the moment, that Miss Abbey was amazed at her demeanour.
She raised her eyes quickly, shook her head, and, in a kind of
triumph, almost laughed.

'They little know father who talk like that!'

('She takes it,' thought Miss Abbey, 'very quietly.  She takes it with
extraordinary quietness!')

'And perhaps,' said Lizzie, as a recollection flashed upon her, 'it is
some one who has a grudge against father; some one who has
threatened father!  Is it Riderhood, Miss?'

'Well; yes it is.'

'Yes!  He was father's partner, and father broke with him, and now
he revenges himself.  Father broke with him when I was by, and he
was very angry at it.  And besides, Miss Abbey!--Will you never,
without strong reason, let pass your lips what I am going to say?'

She bent forward to say it in a whisper.

'I promise,' said Miss Abbey.

'It was on the night when the Harmon murder was found out,
through father, just above bridge.  And just below bridge, as we
were sculling home, Riderhood crept out of the dark in his boat.
And many and many times afterwards, when such great pains were
taken to come to the bottom of the crime, and it never could be
come near, I thought in my own thoughts, could Riderhood himself
have done the murder, and did he purposely let father find the
body?  It seemed a'most wicked and cruel to so much as think such
a thing; but now that he tries to throw it upon father, I go back to it
as if it was a truth.  Can it be a truth?  That was put into my mind
by the dead?'

She asked this question, rather of the fire than of the hostess of the
Fellowship Porters, and looked round the little bar with troubled
eyes.

But, Miss Potterson, as a ready schoolmistress accustomed to bring
her pupils to book, set the matter in a light that was essentially of
this world.

'You poor deluded girl,' she said, 'don't you see that you can't open
your mind to particular suspicions of one of the two, without
opening your mind to general suspicions of the other?  They had
worked together.  Their goings-on had been going on for some
time.  Even granting that it was as you have had in your thoughts,
what the two had done together would come familiar to the mind
of one.'

'You don't know father, Miss, when you talk like that.  Indeed,
indeed, you don't know father.'

'Lizzie, Lizzie,' said Miss Potterson.  'Leave him.  You needn't
break with him altogether, but leave him.  Do well away from him;
not because of what I have told you to-night--we'll pass no
judgment upon that, and we'll hope it may not be--but because of
what I have urged on you before.  No matter whether it's owing to
your good looks or not, I like you and I want to serve you.  Lizzie,
come under my direction.  Don't fling yourself away, my girl, but
be persuaded into being respectable and happy.'

In the sound good feeling and good sense of her entreaty, Miss
Abbey had softened into a soothing tone, and had even drawn her
arm round the girl's waist.  But, she only replied, 'Thank you,
thank you!  I can't.  I won't.  I must not think of it.  The harder
father is borne upon, the more he needs me to lean on.'

And then Miss Abbey, who, like all hard people when they do
soften, felt that there was considerable compensation owing to her,
underwent reaction and became frigid.

'I have done what I can,' she said, 'and you must go your way.  You
make your bed, and you must lie on it.  But tell your father one
thing: he must not come here any more.

'Oh, Miss, will you forbid him the house where I know he's safe?'

'The Fellowships,' returned Miss Abbey, 'has itself to look to, as
well as others.  It has been hard work to establish order here, and
make the Fellowships what it is, and it is daily and nightly hard
work to keep it so.  The Fellowships must not have a taint upon it
that may give it a bad name.  I forbid the house to Riderhood, and I
forbid the house to Gaffer.  I forbid both, equally.  I find from
Riderhood and you together, that there are suspicions against both
men, and I'm not going to take upon myself to decide betwixt
them.  They are both tarred with a dirty brush, and I can't have the
Fellowships tarred with the same brush.  That's all I know.'

'Good-night, Miss!' said Lizzie Hexam, sorrowfully.

'Hah!--Good-night!' returned Miss Abbey with a shake of her head.

'Believe me, Miss Abbey, I am truly grateful all the same.'

'I can believe a good deal,' returned the stately Abbey, 'so I'll try to
believe that too, Lizzie.'

No supper did Miss Potterson take that night, and only half her
usual tumbler of hot Port Negus.  And the female domestics--two
robust sisters, with staring black eyes, shining flat red faces, blunt
noses, and strong black curls, like dolls--interchanged the
sentiment that Missis had had her hair combed the wrong way by
somebody.  And the pot-boy afterwards remarked, that he hadn't
been 'so rattled to bed', since his late mother had systematically
accelerated his retirement to rest with a poker.

The chaining of the door behind her, as she went forth,
disenchanted Lizzie Hexam of that first relief she had felt.  The
night was black and shrill, the river-side wilderness was
melancholy, and there was a sound of casting-out, in the rattling of
the iron-links, and the grating of the bolts and staples under Miss
Abbey's hand.  As she came beneath the lowering sky, a sense of
being involved in a murky shade of Murder dropped upon her; and,
as the tidal swell of the river broke at her feet without her seeing
how it gathered, so, her thoughts startled her by rushing out of an
unseen void and striking at her heart.

Of her father's being groundlessly suspected, she felt sure.  Sure.
Sure.  And yet, repeat the word inwardly as often as she would, the
attempt to reason out and prove that she was sure, always came
after it and failed.  Riderhood had done the deed, and entrapped
her father.  Riderhood had not done the deed, but had resolved in
his malice to turn against her father, the appearances that were
ready to his hand to distort.  Equally and swiftly upon either
putting of the case, followed the frightful possibility that her father,
being innocent, yet might come to be believed guilty.  She had
heard of people suffering Death for bloodshed of which they were
afterwards proved pure, and those ill-fated persons were not, first,
in that dangerous wrong in which her father stood.  Then at the
best, the beginning of his being set apart, whispered against, and
avoided, was a certain fact.  It dated from that very night.  And as
the great black river with its dreary shores was soon lost to her
view in the gloom, so, she stood on the river's brink unable to see
into the vast blank misery of a life suspected, and fallen away from
by good and bad, but knowing that it lay there dim before her,
stretching away to the great ocean, Death.

One thing only, was clear to the girl's mind.  Accustomed from her
very babyhood promptly to do the thing that could be done--
whether to keep out weather, to ward off cold, to postpone hunger,
or what not--she started out of her meditation, and ran home.

The room was quiet, and the lamp burnt on the table.  In the bunk
in the corner, her brother lay asleep.  She bent over him softly,
kissed him, and came to the table.

'By the time of Miss Abbey's closing, and by the run of the tide, it
must be one.  Tide's running up.  Father at Chiswick, wouldn't
think of coming down, till after the turn, and that's at half after
four.  I'll call Charley at six.  I shall hear the church-clocks strike,
as I sit here.'

Very quietly, she placed a chair before the scanty fire, and sat
down in it, drawing her shawl about her.

'Charley's hollow down by the flare is not there now.  Poor
Charley!'

The clock struck two, and the clock struck three, and the clock
struck four, and she remained there, with a woman's patience and
her own purpose.  When the morning was well on between four
and five, she slipped off her shoes (that her going about, might not
wake Charley), trimmed the fire sparingly, put water on to boil,
and set the table for breakfast.  Then she went up the ladder, lamp
in hand, and came down again, and glided about and about,
making a little bundle.  Lastly, from her pocket, and from the
chimney-piece, and from an inverted basin on the highest shelf she
brought halfpence, a few sixpences, fewer shillings, and fell to
laboriously and noiselessly counting them, and setting aside one
little heap.  She was still so engaged, when she was startled by:

'Hal-loa!'  From her brother, sitting up in bed.

'You made me jump, Charley.'

'Jump!  Didn't you make ME jump, when I opened my eyes a
moment ago, and saw you sitting there, like the ghost of a girl
miser, in the dead of the night.'

'It's not the dead of the night, Charley.  It's nigh six in the
morning.'

'Is it though?  But what are you up to, Liz?'

'Still telling your fortune, Charley.'

'It seems to be a precious small one, if that's it,' said the boy.
'What are you putting that little pile of money by itself for?'

'For you, Charley.'

'What do you mean?'

'Get out of bed, Charley, and get washed and dressed, and then I'll
tell you.'

Her composed manner, and her low distinct voice, always had an
influence over him.  His head was soon in a basin of water, and out
of it again, and staring at her through a storm of towelling.

'I never,' towelling at himself as if he were his bitterest enemy,
'saw such a girl as you are.  What IS the move, Liz?'

'Are you almost ready for breakfast, Charley?'

'You can pour it out.  Hal-loa!  I say?  And a bundle?'

'And a bundle, Charley.'

'You don't mean it's for me, too?'

'Yes, Charley; I do; indeed.'

More serious of face, and more slow of action, than he had been,
the boy completed his dressing, and came and sat down at the little
breakfast-table, with his eyes amazedly directed to her face.

'You see, Charley dear, I have made up my mind that this is the
right time for your going away from us.  Over and above all the
blessed change of by-and-bye, you'll be much happier, and do
much better, even so soon as next month.  Even so soon as next
week.'

'How do you know I shall?'

'I don't quite know how, Charley, but I do.'  In spite of her
unchanged manner of speaking, and her unchanged appearance of
composure, she scarcely trusted herself to look at him, but kept her
eyes employed on the cutting and buttering of his bread, and on the
mixing of his tea, and other such little preparations.  'You must
leave father to me, Charley--I will do what I can with him--but you
must go.'

'You don't stand upon ceremony, I think,' grumbled the boy,
throwing his bread and butter about, in an ill-humour.

She made him no answer.

'I tell you what,' said the boy, then, bursting out into an angry
whimpering, 'you're a selfish jade, and you think there's not enough
for three of us, and you want to get rid of me.'

'If you believe so, Charley,--yes, then I believe too, that I am a
selfish jade, and that I think there's not enough for three of us, and
that I want to get rid of you.'

It was only when the boy rushed at her, and threw his arms round
her neck, that she lost her self-restraint.  But she lost it then, and
wept over him.

'Don't cry, don't cry!  I am satisfied to go, Liz; I am satisfied to go.
I know you send me away for my good.'

'O, Charley, Charley, Heaven above us knows I do!'

'Yes yes.  Don't mind what I said.  Don't remember it.  Kiss me.'

After a silence, she loosed him, to dry her eyes and regain her
strong quiet influence.

'Now listen, Charley dear.  We both know it must be done, and I
alone know there is good reason for its being done at once.  Go
straight to the school, and say that you and I agreed upon it--that
we can't overcome father's opposition--that father will never
trouble them, but will never take you back.  You are a credit to the
school, and you will be a greater credit to it yet, and they will help
you to get a living.  Show what clothes you have brought, and what
money, and say that I will send some more money.  If I can get
some in no other way, I will ask a little help of those two
gentlemen who came here that night.'

'I say!' cried her brother, quickly.  'Don't you have it of that chap
that took hold of me by the chin!  Don't you have it of that
Wrayburn one!'

Perhaps a slight additional tinge of red flushed up into her face and
brow, as with a nod she laid a hand upon his lips to keep him
silently attentive.

'And above all things mind this, Charley!  Be sure you always
speak well of father.  Be sure you always give father his full due.
You can't deny that because father has no learning himself he is set
against it in you; but favour nothing else against him, and be sure
you say--as you know--that your sister is devoted to him.  And if
you should ever happen to hear anything said against father that is
new to you, it will not be true.  Remember, Charley!  It will not be
true.'

The boy looked at her with some doubt and surprise, but she went
on again without heeding it.

'Above all things remember!  It will not be true.  I have nothing
more to say, Charley dear, except, be good, and get learning, and
only think of some things in the old life here, as if you had
dreamed them in a dream last night.  Good-bye, my Darling!'

Though so young, she infused in these parting words a love that
was far more like a mother's than a sister's, and before which the
boy was quite bowed down.  After holding her to his breast with a
passionate cry, he took up his bundle and darted out at the door,
with an arm across his eyes.

The white face of the winter day came sluggishly on, veiled in a
frosty mist; and the shadowy ships in the river slowly changed to
black substances; and the sun, blood-red on the eastern marshes
behind dark masts and yards, seemed filled with the ruins of a
forest it had set on fire.  Lizzie, looking for her father, saw him
coming, and stood upon the causeway that he might see her.

He had nothing with him but his boat, and came on apace.  A knot
of those amphibious human-creatures who appear to have some
mysterious power of extracting a subsistence out of tidal water by
looking at it, were gathered together about the causeway.  As her
father's boat grounded, they became contemplative of the mud, and
dispersed themselves.  She saw that the mute avoidance had
begun.

Gaffer saw it, too, in so far as that he was moved when he set foot
on shore, to stare around him.  But, he promptly set to work to haul
up his boat, and make her fast, and take the sculls and rudder and
rope out of her.  Carrying these with Lizzie's aid, he passed up to
his dwelling.

'Sit close to the fire, father, dear, while I cook your breakfast.  It's
all ready for cooking, and only been waiting for you.  You must be
frozen.'

'Well, Lizzie, I ain't of a glow; that's certain.  And my hands seem
nailed through to the sculls.  See how dead they are!'  Something
suggestive in their colour, and perhaps in her face, struck him as
he held them up; he turned his shoulder and held them down to the
fire.

'You were not out in the perishing night, I hope, father?'

'No, my dear.  Lay aboard a barge, by a blazing coal-fire.--Where's
that boy?'

'There's a drop of brandy for your tea, father, if you'll put it in while
I turn this bit of meat.  If the river was to get frozen, there would be
a deal of distress; wouldn't there, father?'

'Ah! there's always enough of that,' said Gaffer, dropping the liquor
into his cup from a squat black bottle, and dropping it slowly that
it might seem more; 'distress is for ever a going about, like sut in
the air--Ain't that boy up yet?'

'The meat's ready now, father.  Eat it while it's hot and
comfortable.  After you have finished, we'll turn round to the fire
and talk.'

But, he perceived that he was evaded, and, having thrown a hasty
angry glance towards the bunk, plucked at a corner of her apron
and asked:

'What's gone with that boy?'

'Father, if you'll begin your breakfast, I'll sit by and tell you.'  He
looked at her, stirred his tea and took two or three gulps, then cut
at his piece of hot steak with his case-knife, and said, eating:

'Now then.  What's gone with that boy?'

'Don't be angry, dear.  It seems, father, that he has quite a gift of
learning.'

'Unnat'ral young beggar!' said the parent, shaking his knife in the
air.

'And that having this gift, and not being equally good at other
things, he has made shift to get some schooling.'

'Unnat'ral young beggar!' said the parent again, with his former
action.

'--And that knowing you have nothing to spare, father, and not
wishing to be a burden on you, he gradually made up his mind to
go seek his fortune out of learning.  He went away this morning,
father, and he cried very much at going, and he hoped you would
forgive him.'

'Let him never come a nigh me to ask me my forgiveness,' said the
father, again emphasizing his words with the knife.  'Let him never
come within sight of my eyes, nor yet within reach of my arm.  His
own father ain't good enough for him.  He's disowned his own
father.  His own father therefore, disowns him for ever and ever, as
a unnat'ral young beggar.'

He had pushed away his plate.  With the natural need of a strong
rough man in anger, to do something forcible, he now clutched his
knife overhand, and struck downward with it at the end of every
succeeding sentence.  As he would have struck with his own
clenched fist if there had chanced to be nothing in it.

'He's welcome to go.  He's more welcome to go than to stay.  But
let him never come back.  Let him never put his head inside that
door.  And let you never speak a word more in his favour, or you'll
disown your own father, likewise, and what your father says of him
he'll have to come to say of you.  Now I see why them men yonder
held aloof from me.  They says to one another, "Here comes the
man as ain't good enough for his own son!"  Lizzie--!'

But, she stopped him with a cry.  Looking at her he saw her, with a
face quite strange to him, shrinking back against the wall, with her
hands before her eyes.

'Father, don't!  I can't bear to see you striking with it.  Put it down!'

He looked at the knife; but in his astonishment still held it.

'Father, it's too horrible.  O put it down, put it down!'

Confounded by her appearance and exclamation, he tossed it away,
and stood up with his open hands held out before him.

'What's come to you, Liz?  Can you think I would strike at you
with a knife?'

'No, father, no; you would never hurt me.'

'What should I hurt?'

'Nothing, dear father.  On my knees, I am certain, in my heart and
soul I am certain, nothing!  But it was too dreadful to bear; for it
looked--' her hands covering her face again, 'O it looked--'

'What did it look like?'

The recollection of his murderous figure, combining with her trial
of last night, and her trial of the morning, caused her to drop at his
feet, without having answered.

He had never seen her so before.  He raised her with the utmost
tenderness, calling her the best of daughters, and 'my poor pretty
creetur', and laid her head upon his knee, and tried to restore her.
But failing, he laid her head gently down again, got a pillow and
placed it under her dark hair, and sought on the table for a spoonful
of brandy.  There being none left, he hurriedly caught up the empty
bottle, and ran out at the door.

He returned as hurriedly as he had gone, with the bottle still empty.
He kneeled down by her, took her head on his arm, and moistened
her lips with a little water into which he dipped his fingers: saying,
fiercely, as he looked around, now over this shoulder, now over
that:

'Have we got a pest in the house?  Is there summ'at deadly sticking
to my clothes?  What's let loose upon us?  Who loosed it?'



Chapter 7

MR WEGG LOOKS AFTER HIMSELF


Silas Wegg, being on his road to the Roman Empire, approaches it
by way of Clerkenwell.  The time is early in the evening; the
weather moist and raw.  Mr Wegg finds leisure to make a little
circuit, by reason that he folds his screen early, now that he
combines another source of income with it, and also that he feels it
due to himself to be anxiously expected at the Bower.  'Boffin will
get all the eagerer for waiting a bit,' says Silas, screwing up, as he
stumps along, first his right eye, and then his left.  Which is
something superfluous in him, for Nature has already screwed both
pretty tight.

'If I get on with him as I expect to get on,' Silas pursues, stumping
and meditating, 'it wouldn't become me to leave it here.  It wouldn't
he respectable.'  Animated by this reflection, he stumps faster, and
looks a long way before him, as a man with an ambitious project in
abeyance often will do.

Aware of a working-jeweller population taking sanctuary about the
church in Clerkenwell, Mr Wegg is conscious of an interest in, and
a respect for, the neighbourhood.  But, his sensations in this regard
halt as to their strict morality, as he halts in his gait; for, they
suggest the delights of a coat of invisibility in which to walk off
safely with the precious stones and watch-cases, but stop short of
any compunction for the people who would lose the same.

Not, however, towards the 'shops' where cunning artificers work in
pearls and diamonds and gold and silver, making their hands so
rich, that the enriched water in which they wash them is bought for
the refiners;--not towards these does Mr Wegg stump, but towards
the poorer shops of small retail traders in commodities to eat and
drink and keep folks warm, and of Italian frame-makers, and of
barbers, and of brokers, and of dealers in dogs and singing-birds.
From these, in a narrow and a dirty street devoted to such callings,
Mr Wegg selects one dark shop-window with a tallow candle
dimly burning in it, surrounded by a muddle of objects vaguely
resembling pieces of leather and dry stick, but among which
nothing is resolvable into anything distinct, save the candle itself in
its old tin candlestick, and two preserved frogs fighting a small-
sword duel.  Stumping with fresh vigour, he goes in at the dark
greasy entry, pushes a little greasy dark reluctant side-door, and
follows the door into the little dark greasy shop.  It is so dark that
nothing can be made out in it, over a little counter, but another
tallow candle in another old tin candlestick, close to the face of a
man stooping low in a chair.

Mr Wegg nods to the face, 'Good evening.'

The face looking up is a sallow face with weak eyes, surmounted
by a tangle of reddish-dusty hair.  The owner of the face has no
cravat on, and has opened his tumbled shirt-collar to work with the
more ease.  For the same reason he has no coat on: only a loose
waistcoat over his yellow linen.  His eyes are like the over-tried
eyes of an engraver, but he is not that; his expression and stoop are
like those of a shoemaker, but he is not that.

'Good evening, Mr Venus.  Don't you remember?'

With slowly dawning remembrance, Mr Venus rises, and holds his
candle over the little counter, and holds it down towards the legs,
natural and artificial, of Mr Wegg.

'To be SURE!' he says, then.  'How do you do?'

'Wegg, you know,' that gentleman explains.

'Yes, yes,' says the other.  'Hospital amputation?'

'Just so,' says Mr Wegg.

'Yes, yes,' quoth Venus.  'How do you do?  Sit down by the fire,
and warm your--your other one.'

'The little counter being so short a counter that it leaves the
fireplace, which would have been behind it if it had been longer,
accessible, Mr Wegg sits down on a box in front of the fire, and
inhales a warm and comfortable smell which is not the smell of the
shop.  'For that,' Mr Wegg inwardly decides, as he takes a
corrective sniff or two, 'is musty, leathery, feathery, cellary, gluey,
gummy, and,' with another sniff, 'as it might be, strong of old pairs
of bellows.'

'My tea is drawing, and my muffin is on the hob, Mr Wegg; will
you partake?'

It being one of Mr Wegg's guiding rules in life always to partake,
he says he will.  But, the little shop is so excessively dark, is stuck
so full of black shelves and brackets and nooks and corners, that he
sees Mr Venus's cup and saucer only because it is close under the
candle, and does not see from what mysterious recess Mr Venus
produces another for himself until it is under his nose.
Concurrently, Wegg perceives a pretty little dead bird lying on the
counter, with its head drooping on one side against the rim of Mr
Venus's saucer, and a long stiff wire piercing its breast.  As if it
were Cock Robin, the hero of the ballad, and Mr Venus were the
sparrow with his bow and arrow, and Mr Wegg were the fly with
his little eye.

Mr Venus dives, and produces another muffin, yet untoasted;
taking the arrow out of the breast of Cock Robin, he proceeds to
toast it on the end of that cruel instrument.  When it is brown, he
dives again and produces butter, with which he completes his
work.

Mr Wegg, as an artful man who is sure of his supper by-and-bye,
presses muffin on his host to soothe him into a compliant state of
mind, or, as one might say, to grease his works.  As the muffins
disappear, little by little, the black shelves and nooks and corners
begin to appear, and Mr Wegg gradually acquires an imperfect
notion that over against him on the chimney-piece is a Hindoo
baby in a bottle, curved up with his big head tucked under him, as
he would instantly throw a summersault if the bottle were large
enough.

When he deems Mr Venus's wheels sufficiently lubricated, Mr
Wegg approaches his object by asking, as he lightly taps his hands
together, to express an undesigning frame of mind:

'And how have I been going on, this long time, Mr Venus?'

'Very bad,' says Mr Venus, uncompromisingly.

'What?  Am I still at home?' asks Wegg, with an air of surprise.

'Always at home.'

This would seem to be secretly agreeable to Wegg, but he veils his
feelings, and observes, 'Strange.  To what do you attribute it?'

'I don't know,' replies Venus, who is a haggard melancholy man,
speaking in a weak voice of querulous complaint, 'to what to
attribute it, Mr Wegg.  I can't work you into a miscellaneous one,
no how.  Do what I will, you can't be got to fit.  Anybody with a
passable knowledge would pick you out at a look, and say,--"No
go!  Don't match!"'

'Well, but hang it, Mr Venus,' Wegg expostulates with some little
irritation, 'that can't be personal and peculiar in ME.  It must often
happen with miscellaneous ones.'

'With ribs (I grant you) always.  But not else.  When I prepare a
miscellaneous one, I know beforehand that I can't keep to nature,
and be miscellaneous with ribs, because every man has his own
ribs, and no other man's will go with them; but elseways I can be
miscellaneous.  I have just sent home a Beauty--a perfect Beauty--
to a school of art.  One leg Belgian, one leg English, and the
pickings of eight other people in it.  Talk of not being qualified to
be miscellaneous!  By rights you OUGHT to be, Mr Wegg.'

Silas looks as hard at his one leg as he can in the dim light, and
after a pause sulkily opines 'that it must be the fault of the other
people.  Or how do you mean to say it comes about?' he demands
impatiently.

'I don't know how it comes about.  Stand up a minute.  Hold the
light.'  Mr Venus takes from a corner by his chair, the bones of a
leg and foot, beautifully pure, and put together with exquisite
neatness.  These he compares with Mr Wegg's leg; that gentleman
looking on, as if he were being measured for a riding-boot.  'No, I
don't know how it is, but so it is.  You have got a twist in that
bone, to the best of my belief.  I never saw the likes of you.'

Mr Wegg having looked distrustfully at his own limb, and
suspiciously at the pattern with which it has been compared,
makes the point:

'I'll bet a pound that ain't an English one!'

'An easy wager, when we run so much into foreign!  No, it belongs
to that French gentleman.'

As he nods towards a point of darkness behind Mr Wegg, the
latter, with a slight start, looks round for 'that French gentleman,'
whom he at length descries to be represented (in a very
workmanlike manner) by his ribs only, standing on a shelf in
another corner, like a piece of armour or a pair of stays.

'Oh!' says Mr Wegg, with a sort of sense of being introduced; 'I
dare say you were all right enough in your own country, but I hope
no objections will be taken to my saying that the Frenchman was
never yet born as I should wish to match.'

At this moment the greasy door is violently pushed inward, and a
boy follows it, who says, after having let it slam:

'Come for the stuffed canary.'

'It's three and ninepence,' returns Venus; 'have you got the money?'

The boy produces four shillings.  Mr Venus, always in exceedingly
low spirits and making whimpering sounds, peers about for the
stuffed canary.  On his taking the candle to assist his search, Mr
Wegg observes that he has a convenient little shelf near his knees,
exclusively appropriated to skeleton hands, which have very much
the appearance of wanting to lay hold of him.  From these Mr
Venus rescues the canary in a glass case, and shows it to the boy.

'There!' he whimpers.  'There's animation!  On a twig, making up
his mind to hop!  Take care of him; he's a lovely specimen.--And
three is four.'

The boy gathers up his change and has pulled the door open by a
leather strap nailed to it for the purpose, when Venus cries out:

'Stop him!  Come back, you young villain!  You've got a tooth
among them halfpence.'

'How was I to know I'd got it?  You giv it me.  I don't want none of
your teeth; I've got enough of my own.'  So the boy pipes, as he
selects it from his change, and throws it on the counter.

'Don't sauce ME, in the wicious pride of your youth,' Mr Venus
retorts pathetically.'  Don't hit ME because you see I'm down.  I'm
low enough without that.  It dropped into the till, I suppose.  They
drop into everything.  There was two in the coffee-pot at breakfast
time.  Molars.'

'Very well, then,' argues the boy, 'what do you call names for?'

To which Mr Venus only replies, shaking his shock of dusty hair,
and winking his weak eyes, 'Don't sauce ME, in the wicious pride
of your youth; don't hit ME, because you see I'm down.  You've no
idea how small you'd come out, if I had the articulating of you.'

This consideration seems to have its effect on the boy, for he goes
out grumbling.

'Oh dear me, dear me!' sighs Mr Venus, heavily, snuffing the
candle, 'the world that appeared so flowery has ceased to blow!
You're casting your eye round the shop, Mr Wegg.  Let me show
you a light.  My working bench.  My young man's bench.  A Wice.
Tools.  Bones, warious.  Skulls, warious.  Preserved Indian baby.
African ditto.  Bottled preparations, warious.  Everything within
reach of your hand, in good preservation.  The mouldy ones a-top.
What's in those hampers over them again, I don't quite remember.
Say, human warious.  Cats.  Articulated English baby.  Dogs.
Ducks.  Glass eyes, warious.  Mummied bird.  Dried cuticle,
warious.  Oh, dear me!  That's the general panoramic view.'

Having so held and waved the candle as that all these
heterogeneous objects seemed to come forward obediently when
they were named, and then retire again, Mr Venus despondently
repeats, 'Oh dear me, dear me!' resumes his seat, and with
drooping despondency upon him, falls to pouring himself out more
tea.

'Where am I?' asks Mr Wegg.

'You're somewhere in the back shop across the yard, sir; and
speaking quite candidly, I wish I'd never bought you of the
Hospital Porter.'

'Now, look here, what did you give for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, blowing his tea: his head and face peering
out of the darkness, over the smoke of it, as if he were modernizing
the old original rise in his family: 'you were one of a warious lot,
and I don't know.'

Silas puts his point in the improved form of  'What will you take
for me?'

'Well,' replies Venus, still blowing his tea, 'I'm not prepared, at a
moment's notice, to tell you, Mr Wegg.'

'Come!  According to your own account I'm not worth much,'
Wegg reasons persuasively.

'Not for miscellaneous working in, I grant you, Mr Wegg; but you
might turn out valuable yet, as a--' here Mr Venus takes a gulp of
tea, so hot that it makes him choke, and sets his weak eyes
watering; 'as a Monstrosity, if you'll excuse me.'

Repressing an indignant look, indicative of anything but a
disposition to excuse him, Silas pursues his point.

'I think you know me, Mr Venus, and I think you know I never
bargain.'

Mr Venus takes gulps of hot tea, shutting his eyes at every gulp,
and opening them again in a spasmodic manner; but does not
commit himself to assent.

'I have a prospect of getting on in life and elevating myself by my
own independent exertions,' says Wegg, feelingly, 'and I shouldn't
like--I tell you openly I should NOT like--under such
circumstances, to be what I may call dispersed, a part of me here,
and a part of me there, but should wish to collect myself like a
genteel person.'

'It's a prospect at present, is it, Mr Wegg?  Then you haven't got the
money for a deal about you?  Then I'll tell you what I'll do with
you; I'll hold you over.  I am a man of my word, and you needn't be
afraid of my disposing of you.  I'll hold you over.  That's a promise.
Oh dear me, dear me!'

Fain to accept his promise, and wishing to propitiate him, Mr
Wegg looks on as he sighs and pours himself out more tea, and
then says, trying to get a sympathetic tone into his voice:

'You seem very low, Mr Venus.  Is business bad?'

'Never was so good.'

'Is your hand out at all?'

'Never was so well in.  Mr Wegg, I'm not only first in the trade, but
I'm THE trade.  You may go and buy a skeleton at the West End if
you like, and pay the West End price, but it'll be my putting
together.  I've as much to do as I can possibly do, with the
assistance of my young man, and I take a pride and a pleasure in
it.'

Mr Venus thus delivers himself, his right hand extended, his
smoking saucer in his left hand, protesting as though he were
going to burst into a flood of tears.

'That ain't a state of things to make you low, Mr Venus.'

'Mr Wegg, I know it ain't.  Mr Wegg, not to name myself as a
workman without an equal, I've gone on improving myself in my
knowledge of Anatomy, till both by sight and by name I'm perfect.
Mr Wegg, if you was brought here loose in a bag to be articulated,
I'd name your smallest bones blindfold equally with your largest,
as fast as I could pick 'em out, and I'd sort 'em all, and sort your
wertebrae, in a manner that would equally surprise and charm you.'

'Well,' remarks Silas (though not quite so readily as last time),
'THAT ain't a state of things to be low about.--Not for YOU to be
low about, leastways.'

'Mr Wegg, I know it ain't; Mr Wegg, I know it ain't.  But it's the
heart that lowers me, it is the heart!  Be so good as take and read
that card out loud.'

Silas receives one from his hand, which Venus takes from a
wonderful litter in a drawer, and putting on his spectacles, reads:

'"Mr Venus,"'

'Yes.  Go on.'

'"Preserver of Animals and Birds,"'

'Yes.  Go on.'

'"Articulator of human bones."'

'That's it,' with a groan.  'That's it!  Mr Wegg, I'm thirty-two, and a
bachelor.  Mr Wegg, I love her.  Mr Wegg, she is worthy of being
loved by a Potentate!'  Here Silas is rather alarmed by Mr Venus's
springing to his feet in the hurry of his spirits, and haggardly
confronting him with his hand on his coat collar; but Mr Venus,
begging pardon, sits down again, saying, with the calmness of
despair, 'She objects to the business.'

'Does she know the profits of it?'

'She knows the profits of it, but she don't appreciate the art of it,
and she objects to it.  "I do not wish," she writes in her own
handwriting, "to regard myself, nor yet to be regarded, in that
boney light".'

Mr Venus pours himself out more tea, with a look and in an
attitude of the deepest desolation.

'And so a man climbs to the top of the tree, Mr Wegg, only to see
that there's no look-out when he's up there!  I sit here of a night
surrounded by the lovely trophies of my art, and what have they
done for me?  Ruined me.  Brought me to the pass of being
informed that "she does not wish to regard herself, nor yet to be
regarded, in that boney light"!'  Having repeated the fatal
expressions, Mr Venus drinks more tea by gulps, and offers an
explanation of his doing so.

'It lowers me.  When I'm equally lowered all over, lethargy sets in.
By sticking to it till one or two in the morning, I get oblivion.
Don't let me detain you, Mr Wegg.  I'm not company for any one.'

'It is not on that account,' says Silas, rising, 'but because I've got an
appointment.  It's time I was at Harmon's.'

'Eh?' said Mr Venus.  'Harmon's, up Battle Bridge way?'

Mr Wegg admits that he is bound for that port.

'You ought to be in a good thing, if you've worked yourself in
there.  There's lots of money going, there.'

'To think,' says Silas, 'that you should catch it up so quick, and
know about it.  Wonderful!'

'Not at all, Mr Wegg.  The old gentleman wanted to know the
nature and worth of everything that was found in the dust; and
many's the bone, and feather, and what not, that he's brought to
me.'

'Really, now!'

'Yes.  (Oh dear me, dear me!)  And he's buried quite in this
neighbourhood, you know.  Over yonder.'

Mr Wegg does not know, but he makes as if he did, by
responsively nodding his head.  He also follows with his eyes, the
toss of Venus's head: as if to seek a direction to over yonder.

'I took an interest in that discovery in the river,' says Venus.  (She
hadn't written her cutting refusal at that time.)  I've got up there--
never mind, though.'

He had raised the candle at arm's length towards one of the dark
shelves, and Mr Wegg had turned to look, when he broke off.

'The old gentleman was well known all round here.  There used to
be stories about his having hidden all kinds of property in those
dust mounds.  I suppose there was nothing in 'em.  Probably you
know, Mr Wegg?'

'Nothing in 'em,' says Wegg, who has never heard a word of this
before.

'Don't let me detain you.  Good night!'

The unfortunate Mr Venus gives him a shake of the hand with a
shake of his own head, and drooping down in his chair, proceeds
to pour himself out more tea.  Mr Wegg, looking back over his
shoulder as he pulls the door open by the strap, notices that the
movement so shakes the crazy shop, and so shakes a momentary
flare out of the candle, as that the babies--Hindoo, African, and
British--the 'human warious', the French gentleman, the green
glass-eyed cats, the dogs, the ducks, and all the rest of the
collection, show for an instant as if paralytically animated; while
even poor little Cock Robin at Mr Venus's elbow turns over on his
innocent side.  Next moment, Mr Wegg is stumping under the
gaslights and through the mud.



Chapter 8

MR BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION


Whosoever had gone out of Fleet Street into the Temple at the date
of this history, and had wandered disconsolate about the Temple
until he stumbled on a dismal churchyard, and had looked up at the
dismal windows commanding that churchyard until at the most
dismal window of them all he saw a dismal boy, would in him
have beheld, at one grand comprehensive swoop of the eye, the
managing clerk, junior clerk, common-law clerk, conveyancing
clerk, chancery clerk, every refinement and department of clerk, of
Mr Mortimer Lightwood, erewhile called in the newspapers
eminent solicitor.

Mr Boffin having been several times in communication with this
clerkly essence, both on its own ground and at the Bower, had no
difficulty in identifying it when he saw it up in its dusty eyrie.  To
the second floor on which the window was situated, he ascended,
much pre-occupied in mind by the uncertainties besetting the
Roman Empire, and much regretting the death of the amiable
Pertinax: who only last night had left the Imperial affairs in a state
of great confusion, by falling a victim to the fury of the praetorian
guards.

'Morning, morning, morning!' said Mr Boffin, with a wave of his
hand, as the office door was opened by the dismal boy, whose
appropriate name was Blight.  'Governor in?'

'Mr Lightwood gave you an appointment, sir, I think?'

'I don't want him to give it, you know,' returned Mr Boffin; 'I'll pay
my way, my boy.'

'No doubt, sir.  Would you walk in?  Mr Lightwood ain't in at the
present moment, but I expect him back very shortly.  Would you
take a seat in Mr Lightwood's room, sir, while I look over our
Appointment Book?'  Young Blight made a great show of fetching
from his desk a long thin manuscript volume with a brown paper
cover, and running his finger down the day's appointments,
murmuring, 'Mr Aggs, Mr Baggs, Mr Caggs, Mr Daggs, Mr
Faggs, Mr Gaggs, Mr Boffin.  Yes, sir; quite right.  You are a little
before your time, sir.  Mr Lightwood will be in directly.'

'I'm not in a hurry,' said Mr Boffin

'Thank you, sir.  I'll take the opportunity, if you please, of entering
your name in our Callers' Book for the day.'  Young Blight made
another great show of changing the volume, taking up a pen,
sucking it, dipping it, and running over previous entries before he
wrote.  As, 'Mr Alley, Mr Balley, Mr Calley, Mr Dalley, Mr
Falley, Mr Galley, Mr Halley, Mr Lalley, Mr Malley.  And Mr
Boffin.'

'Strict system here; eh, my lad?' said Mr Boffin, as he was booked.

'Yes, sir,' returned the boy.  'I couldn't get on without it.'

By which he probably meant that his mind would have been
shattered to pieces without this fiction of an occupation.  Wearing
in his solitary confinement no fetters that he could polish, and
being provided with no drinking-cup that he could carve, he had
fallen on the device of ringing alphabetical changes into the two
volumes in question, or of entering vast numbers of persons out of
the Directory as transacting business with Mr Lightwood.  It was
the more necessary for his spirits, because, being of a sensitive
temperament, he was apt to consider it personally disgraceful to
himself that his master had no clients.

'How long have you been in the law, now?' asked Mr Boffin, with
a pounce, in his usual inquisitive way.

'I've been in the law, now, sir, about three years.'

'Must have been as good as born in it!' said Mr Boffin, with
admiration.  'Do you like it?'

'I don't mind it much,' returned Young Blight, heaving a sigh, as if
its bitterness were past.

'What wages do you get?'

'Half what I could wish,' replied young Blight.

'What's the whole that you could wish?'

'Fifteen shillings a week,' said the boy.

'About how long might it take you now, at a average rate of going,
to be a Judge?' asked Mr Boffin, after surveying his small stature
in silence.

The boy answered that he had not yet quite worked out that little
calculation.

'I suppose there's nothing to prevent your going in for it?' said Mr
Boffin.

The boy virtually replied that as he had the honour to be a Briton
who never never never, there was nothing to prevent his going in
for it.  Yet he seemed inclined to suspect that there might be
something to prevent his coming out with it.

'Would a couple of pound help you up at all?' asked Mr Boffin.

On this head, young Blight had no doubt whatever, so Mr Boffin
made him a present of that sum of money, and thanked him for his
attention to his (Mr Boffin's) affairs; which, he added, were now,
he believed, as good as settled.

Then Mr Boffin, with his stick at his ear, like a Familiar Spirit
explaining the office to him, sat staring at a little bookcase of Law
Practice and Law Reports, and at a window, and at an empty blue
bag, and at a stick of sealing-wax, and a pen, and a box of wafers,
and an apple, and a writing-pad--all very dusty--and at a number of
inky smears and blots, and at an imperfectly-disguised gun-case
pretending to be something legal, and at an iron box labelled
HARMON ESTATE, until Mr Lightwood appeared.

Mr Lightwood explained that he came from the proctor's, with
whom he had been engaged in transacting Mr Boffin's affairs.

'And they seem to have taken a deal out of you!' said Mr Boffin,
with commiseration.

Mr Lightwood, without explaining that his weariness was chronic,
proceeded with his exposition that, all forms of law having been at
length complied with, will of Harmon deceased having been
proved, death of Harmon next inheriting having been proved, &c.,
and so forth, Court of Chancery having been moved, &c. and so
forth, he, Mr Lightwood, had now the gratification, honour, and
happiness, again &c. and so forth, of congratulating Mr Boffin on
coming into possession as residuary legatee, of upwards of one
hundred thousand pounds, standing in the books of the Governor
and Company of the Bank of England, again &c. and so forth.

'And what is particularly eligible in the property Mr Boffin, is, that
it involves no trouble.  There are no estates to manage, no rents to
return so much per cent upon in bad times (which is an extremely
dear way of getting your name into the newspapers), no voters to
become parboiled in hot water with, no agents to take the cream off
the milk before it comes to table.  You could put the whole in a
cash-box to-morrow morning, and take it with you to--say, to the
Rocky Mountains.  Inasmuch as every man,' concluded Mr
Lightwood, with an indolent smile, 'appears to be under a fatal
spell which obliges him, sooner or later, to mention the Rocky
Mountains in a tone of extreme familiarity to some other man, I
hope you'll excuse my pressing you into the service of that gigantic
range of geographical bores.'

Without following this last remark very closely, Mr Boffin cast his
perplexed gaze first at the ceiling, and then at the carpet.

'Well,' he remarked, 'I don't know what to say about it, I am sure.  I
was a'most as well as I was.  It's a great lot to take care of.'

'My dear Mr Boffin, then DON'T take care of it!'

'Eh?' said that gentleman.

'Speaking now,' returned Mortimer, 'with the irresponsible
imbecility of a private individual, and not with the profundity of a
professional adviser, I should say that if the circumstance of its
being too much, weighs upon your mind, you have the haven of
consolation open to you that you can easily make it less.  And if
you should be apprehensive of the trouble of doing so, there is the
further haven of consolation that any number of people will take
the trouble off your hands.'

'Well!  I don't quite see it,' retorted Mr Boffin, still perplexed.
'That's not satisfactory, you know, what you're a-saying.'

'Is Anything satisfactory, Mr Boffin?' asked Mortimer, raising his
eyebrows.

'I used to find it so,' answered Mr Boffin, with a wistful look.
'While I was foreman at the Bower--afore it WAS the Bower--I
considered the business very satisfactory.  The old man was a
awful Tartar (saying it, I'm sure, without disrespect to his memory)
but the business was a pleasant one to look after, from before
daylight to past dark.  It's a'most a pity,' said Mr Boffin, rubbing
his ear, 'that he ever went and made so much money.  It would
have been better for him if he hadn't so given himself up to it.  You
may depend upon it,' making the discovery all of a sudden, 'that
HE found it a great lot to take care of!'

Mr Lightwood coughed, not convinced.

'And speaking of satisfactory,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'why, Lord
save us! when we come to take it to pieces, bit by bit, where's the
satisfactoriness of the money as yet?  When the old man does right
the poor boy after all, the poor boy gets no good of it.  He gets
made away with, at the moment when he's lifting (as one may say)
the cup and sarser to his lips.  Mr Lightwood, I will now name to
you, that on behalf of the poor dear boy, me and Mrs Boffin have
stood out against the old man times out of number, till he has
called us every name he could lay his tongue to.  I have seen him,
after Mrs Boffin has given him her mind respecting the claims of
the nat'ral affections, catch off Mrs Boffin's bonnet (she wore, in
general, a black straw, perched as a matter of convenience on the
top of her head), and send it spinning across the yard.  I have
indeed.  And once, when he did this in a manner that amounted to
personal, I should have given him a rattler for himself, if Mrs
Boffin hadn't thrown herself betwixt us, and received flush on the
temple.  Which dropped her, Mr Lightwood.  Dropped her.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Equal honour--Mrs Boffin's head and
heart.'

'You understand; I name this,' pursued Mr Boffin, 'to show you,
now the affairs are wound up, that me and Mrs Boffin have ever
stood as we were in Christian honour bound, the children's friend.
Me and Mrs Boffin stood the poor girl's friend; me and Mrs Boffin
stood the poor boy's friend; me and Mrs Boffin up and faced the
old man when we momently expected to be turned out for our
pains.  As to Mrs Boffin,' said Mr Boffin lowering his voice, 'she
mightn't wish it mentioned now she's Fashionable, but she went so
far as to tell him, in my presence, he was a flinty-hearted rascal.'

Mr Lightwood murmured 'Vigorous Saxon spirit--Mrs Boffin's
ancestors--bowmen--Agincourt and Cressy.'

'The last time me and Mrs Boffin saw the poor boy,' said Mr
Boffin, warming (as fat usually does) with a tendency to melt, 'he
was a child of seven year old.  For when he came back to make
intercession for his sister, me and Mrs Boffin were away
overlooking a country contract which was to be sifted before
carted, and he was come and gone in a single hour.  I say he was a
child of seven year old.  He was going away, all alone and forlorn,
to that foreign school, and he come into our place, situate up the
yard of the present Bower, to have a warm at our fire.  There was
his little scanty travelling clothes upon him.  There was his little
scanty box outside in the shivering wind, which I was going to
carry for him down to the steamboat, as the old man wouldn't hear
of allowing a sixpence coach-money.  Mrs Boffin, then quite a
young woman and pictur of a full-blown rose, stands him by her,
kneels down at the fire, warms her two open hands, and falls to
rubbing his cheeks; but seeing the tears come into the child's eyes,
the tears come fast into her own, and she holds him round the
neck, like as if she was protecting him, and cries to me, "I'd give
the wide wide world, I would, to run away with him!"  I don't say
but what it cut me, and but what it at the same time heightened my
feelings of admiration for Mrs Boffin.  The poor child clings to her
for awhile, as she clings to him, and then, when the old man calls,
he says "I must go!  God bless you!" and for a moment rests his
heart against her bosom, and looks up at both of us, as if it was in
pain--in agony.  Such a look!  I went aboard with him (I gave him
first what little treat I thought he'd like), and I left him when he
had fallen asleep in his berth, and I came back to Mrs Boffin.  But
tell her what I would of how I had left him, it all went for nothing,
for, according to her thoughts, he never changed that look that he
had looked up at us two.  But it did one piece of good.  Mrs Boffin
and me had no child of our own, and had sometimes wished that
how we had one.  But not now.  "We might both of us die," says
Mrs Boffin, "and other eyes might see that lonely look in our
child."  So of a night, when it was very cold, or when the wind
roared, or the rain dripped heavy, she would wake sobbing, and
call out in a fluster, "Don't you see the poor child's face?  O shelter
the poor child!"--till in course of years it gently wore out, as many
things do.'

'My dear Mr Boffin, everything wears to rags,' said Mortimer, with
a light laugh.

'I won't go so far as to say everything,' returned Mr Boffin, on
whom his manner seemed to grate, 'because there's some things
that I never found among the dust.  Well, sir.  So Mrs Boffin and
me grow older and older in the old man's service, living and
working pretty hard in it, till the old man is discovered dead in his
bed.  Then Mrs Boffin and me seal up his box, always standing on
the table at the side of his bed, and having frequently heerd tell of
the Temple as a spot where lawyer's dust is contracted for, I come
down here in search of a lawyer to advise, and I see your young
man up at this present elevation, chopping at the flies on the
window-sill with his penknife, and I give him a Hoy! not then
having the pleasure of your acquaintance, and by that means come
to gain the honour.  Then you, and the gentleman in the
uncomfortable neck-cloth under the little archway in Saint Paul's
Churchyard--'

'Doctors' Commons,' observed Lightwood.

'I understood it was another name,' said Mr Boffin, pausing, 'but
you know best.  Then you and Doctor Scommons, you go to work,
and you do the thing that's proper, and you and Doctor S. take
steps for finding out the poor boy, and at last you do find out the
poor boy, and me and Mrs Boffin often exchange the observation,
"We shall see him again, under happy circumstances."  But it was
never to be; and the want of satisfactoriness is, that after all the
money never gets to him.'

'But it gets,' remarked Lightwood, with a languid inclination of the
head, 'into excellent hands.'

'It gets into the hands of me and Mrs Boffin only this very day and
hour, and that's what I am working round to, having waited for
this day and hour a' purpose.  Mr Lightwood, here has been a
wicked cruel murder.  By that murder me and Mrs Boffin
mysteriously profit.  For the apprehension and conviction of the
murderer, we offer a reward of one tithe of the property--a reward
of Ten Thousand Pound.'

'Mr Boffin, it's too much.'

'Mr Lightwood, me and Mrs Boffin have fixed the sum together,
and we stand to it.'

'But let me represent to you,' returned Lightwood, 'speaking now
with professional profundity, and not with individual imbecility,
that the offer of such an immense reward is a temptation to forced
suspicion, forced construction of circumstances, strained
accusation, a whole tool-box of edged tools.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, a little staggered, 'that's the sum we put o'
one side for the purpose.  Whether it shall be openly declared in the
new notices that must now be put about in our names--'

'In your name, Mr Boffin; in your name.'

'Very well; in my name, which is the same as Mrs Boffin's, and
means both of us, is to be considered in drawing 'em up.  But this
is the first instruction that I, as the owner of the property, give to
my lawyer on coming into it.'

'Your lawyer, Mr Boffin,' returned Lightwood, making a very short
note of it with a very rusty pen, 'has the gratification of taking the
instruction.  There is another?'

'There is just one other, and no more.  Make me as compact a little
will as can be reconciled with tightness, leaving the whole of the
property to "my beloved wife, Henerietty Boffin, sole executrix".
Make it as short as you can, using those words; but make it tight.'

At some loss to fathom Mr Boffin's notions of a tight will,
Lightwood felt his way.

'I beg your pardon, but professional profundity must be exact.
When you say tight--'

'I mean tight,' Mr Boffin explained.

'Exactly so.  And nothing can be more laudable.  But is the
tightness to bind Mrs Boffin to any and what conditions?'

'Bind Mrs Boffin?' interposed her husband. 'No!  What are you
thinking of!  What I want is, to make it all hers so tight as that her
hold of it can't be loosed.'

'Hers freely, to do what she likes with?  Hers absolutely?'

'Absolutely?' repeated Mr Boffin, with a short sturdy laugh.  'Hah!
I should think so!  It would be handsome in me to begin to bind
Mrs Boffin at this time of day!'

So that instruction, too, was taken by Mr Lightwood; and Mr
Lightwood, having taken it, was in the act of showing Mr Boffin
out, when Mr Eugene Wrayburn almost jostled him in the door-
way.  Consequently Mr Lightwood said, in his cool manner, 'Let
me make you two known to one another,' and further signified that
Mr Wrayburn was counsel learned in the law, and that, partly in
the way of business and partly in the way of pleasure, he had
imparted to Mr Wrayburn some of the interesting facts of Mr
Boffin's biography.

'Delighted,' said Eugene--though he didn't look so--'to know Mr
Boffin.'

'Thankee, sir, thankee,' returned that gentleman.  'And how do
YOU like the law?'

'A--not particularly,' returned Eugene.

'Too dry for you, eh?  Well, I suppose it wants some years of
sticking to, before you master it.  But there's nothing like work.
Look at the bees.'

'I beg your pardon,' returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, 'but
will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being
referred to the bees?'

'Do you!' said Mr Boffin.

'I object on principle,' said Eugene, 'as a biped--'

'As a what?' asked Mr Boffin.

'As a two-footed creature;--I object on principle, as a two-footed
creature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footed
creatures.  I object to being required to model my proceedings
according to the proceedings of the bee, or the dog, or the spider, or
the camel.  I fully admit that the camel, for instance, is an
excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to
entertain himself with, and I have only one.  Besides, I am not
fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.'

'But I said, you know,' urged Mr Boffin, rather at a loss for an
answer, 'the bee.'

'Exactly.  And may I represent to you that it's injudicious to say the
bee?  For the whole case is assumed.  Conceding for a moment that
there is any analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and
pantaloons (which I deny), and that it is settled that the man is to
learn from the bee (which I also deny), the question still remains,
what is he to learn?  To imitate?  Or to avoid?  When your friends
the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their
sovereign, and become perfectly distracted touching the slightest
monarchical movement, are we men to learn the greatness of Tuft-
hunting, or the littleness of the Court Circular?  I am not clear, Mr
Boffin, but that the hive may be satirical.'

'At all events, they work,' said Mr Boffin.

'Ye-es,' returned Eugene, disparagingly, 'they work; but don't you
think they overdo it?  They work so much more than they need--
they make so much more than they can eat--they are so incessantly
boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them--
that don't you think they overdo it?  And are human labourers to
have no holidays, because of the bees?  And am I never to have
change of air, because the bees don't?  Mr Boffin, I think honey
excellent at breakfast; but, regarded in the light of my conventional
schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug
of your friend the bee.  With the highest respect for you.'

'Thankee,' said Mr Boffin. 'Morning, morning!'

But, the worthy Mr Boffin jogged away with a comfortless
impression he could have dispensed with, that there was a deal of
unsatisfactoriness in the world, besides what he had recalled as
appertaining to the Harmon property.  And he was still jogging
along Fleet Street in this condition of mind, when he became aware
that he was closely tracked and observed by a man of genteel
appearance.

'Now then?' said Mr Boffin, stopping short, with his meditations
brought to an abrupt check, 'what's the next article?'

'I beg your pardon, Mr Boffin.'

'My name too, eh?  How did you come by it?  I don't know you.'

'No, sir, you don't know me.'

Mr Boffin looked full at the man, and the man looked full at him.

'No,' said Mr Boffin, after a glance at the pavement, as if it were
made of faces and he were trying to match the man's, 'I DON'T
know you.'

'I am nobody,' said the stranger, 'and not likely to be known; but
Mr Boffin's wealth--'

'Oh! that's got about already, has it?' muttered Mr Boffin.

'--And his romantic manner of acquiring it, make him conspicuous.
You were pointed out to me the other day.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, 'I should say I was a disappintment to you
when I WAS pinted out, if your politeness would allow you to
confess it, for I am well aware I am not much to look at.  What
might you want with me?  Not in the law, are you?'

'No, sir.'

'No information to give, for a reward?'

'No, sir.'

There may have been a momentary mantling in the face of the man
as he made the last answer, but it passed directly.

'If I don't mistake, you have followed me from my lawyer's and
tried to fix my attention.  Say out!  Have you?  Or haven't you?'
demanded Mr Boffin, rather angry.

'Yes.'

'Why have you?'

'If you will allow me to walk beside you, Mr Boffin, I will tell you.
Would you object to turn aside into this place--I think it is called
Clifford's Inn--where we can hear one another better than in the
roaring street?'

('Now,' thought Mr Boffin, 'if he proposes a game at skittles, or
meets a country gentleman just come into property, or produces
any article of jewellery he has found, I'll knock him down!'  With
this discreet reflection, and carrying his stick in his arms much as
Punch carries his, Mr Boffin turned into Clifford's Inn aforesaid.)

'Mr Boffin, I happened to be in Chancery Lane this morning, when
I saw you going along before me.  I took the liberty of following
you, trying to make up my mind to speak to you, till you went into
your lawyer's.  Then I waited outside till you came out.'

('Don't quite sound like skittles, nor yet country gentleman, nor yet
jewellery,' thought Mr Boffin, 'but there's no knowing.')

'I am afraid my object is a bold one, I am afraid it has little of the
usual practical world about it, but I venture it.  If you ask me, or if
you ask yourself--which is more likely--what emboldens me, I
answer, I have been strongly assured, that you are a man of
rectitude and plain dealing, with the soundest of sound hearts, and
that you are blessed in a wife distinguished by the same qualities.'

'Your information is true of Mrs Boffin, anyhow,' was Mr Boffin's
answer, as he surveyed his new friend again.  There was
something repressed in the strange man's manner, and he walked
with his eyes on the ground--though conscious, for all that, of Mr
Boffin's observation--and he spoke in a subdued voice.  But his
words came easily, and his voice was agreeable in tone, albeit
constrained.

'When I add, I can discern for myself what the general tongue says
of you--that you are quite unspoiled by Fortune, and not uplifted--I
trust you will not, as a man of an open nature, suspect that I mean
to flatter you, but will believe that all I mean is to excuse myself,
these being my only excuses for my present intrusion.'

('How much?' thought Mr Boffin.  'It must be coming to money.
How much?')

'You will probably change your manner of living, Mr Boffin, in
your changed circumstances.  You will probably keep a larger
house, have many matters to arrange, and be beset by numbers of
correspondents.  If you would try me as your Secretary--'

'As WHAT?' cried Mr Boffin, with his eyes wide open.

'Your Secretary.'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, under his breath, 'that's a queer thing!'

'Or,' pursued the stranger, wondering at Mr Boffin's wonder, 'if you
would try me as your man of business under any name, I know you
would find me faithful and grateful, and I hope you would find me
useful.  You may naturally think that my immediate object is
money.  Not so, for I would willingly serve you a year--two years--
any term you might appoint--before that should begin to be a
consideration between us.'

'Where do you come from?' asked Mr Boffin.

'I come,' returned the other, meeting his eye, 'from many countries.'

Boffin's acquaintances with the names and situations of foreign
lands being limited in extent and somewhat confused in quality, he
shaped his next question on an elastic model.

'From--any particular place?'

'I have been in many places.'

'What have you been?' asked Mr Boffin.

Here again he made no great advance, for the reply was, 'I have
been a student and a traveller.'

'But if it ain't a liberty to plump it out,' said Mr Boffin, 'what do
you do for your living?'

'I have mentioned,' returned the other, with another look at him,
and a smile, 'what I aspire to do.  I have been superseded as to
some slight intentions I had, and I may say that I have now to
begin life.'

Not very well knowing how to get rid of this applicant, and
feeling the more embarrassed because his manner and appearance
claimed a delicacy in which the worthy Mr Boffin feared he
himself might be deficient, that gentleman glanced into the mouldy
little plantation or cat-preserve, of Clifford's Inn, as it was that day,
in search of a suggestion.  Sparrows were there, cats were there,
dry-rot and wet-rot were there, but it was not otherwise a
suggestive spot.

'All this time,' said the stranger, producing a little pocket-book and
taking out a card, 'I have not mentioned my name.  My name is
Rokesmith.  I lodge at one Mr Wilfer's, at Holloway.'

Mr Boffin stared again.

'Father of Miss Bella Wilfer?' said he.

'My landlord has a daughter named Bella.  Yes; no doubt.'

Now, this name had been more or less in Mr Boffin's thoughts all
the morning, and for days before; therefore he said:

'That's singular, too!' unconsciously staring again, past all bounds
of good manners, with the card in his hand.  'Though, by-the-bye, I
suppose it was one of that family that pinted me out?'

'No.  I have never been in the streets with one of them.'

'Heard me talked of among 'em, though?'

'No.  I occupy my own rooms, and have held scarcely any
communication with them.'

'Odder and odder!' said Mr Boffin.  'Well, sir, to tell you the truth, I
don't know what to say to you.'

'Say nothing,' returned Mr Rokesmith; 'allow me to call on you in a
few days.  I am not so unconscionable as to think it likely that you
would accept me on trust at first sight, and take me out of the very
street.  Let me come to you for your further opinion, at your
leisure.'

'That's fair, and I don't object,' said Mr Boffin; 'but it must be on
condition that it's fully understood that I no more know that I shall
ever be in want of any gentleman as Secretary--it WAS Secretary
you said; wasn't it?'

'Yes.'

Again Mr Boffin's eyes opened wide, and he stared at the applicant
from head to foot, repeating 'Queer!--You're sure it was Secretary?
Are you?'

'I am sure I said so.'

--'As Secretary,' repeated Mr Boffin, meditating upon the word; 'I
no more know that I may ever want a Secretary, or what not, than I
do that I shall ever be in want of the man in the moon.  Me and
Mrs Boffin have not even settled that we shall make any change in
our way of life.  Mrs Boffin's inclinations certainly do tend towards
Fashion; but, being already set up in a fashionable way at the
Bower, she may not make further alterations.  However, sir, as you
don't press yourself, I wish to meet you so far as saying, by all
means call at the Bower if you like.  Call in the course of a week or
two.  At the same time, I consider that I ought to name, in addition
to what I have already named, that I have in my employment a
literary man--WITH a wooden leg--as I have no thoughts of
parting from.'

'I regret to hear I am in some sort anticipated,' Mr Rokesmith
answered, evidently having heard it with surprise; 'but perhaps
other duties might arise?'

'You see,' returned Mr Boffin, with a confidential sense of dignity,
'as to my literary man's duties, they're clear.  Professionally he
declines and he falls, and as a friend he drops into poetry.'

Without observing that these duties seemed by no means clear to
Mr Rokesmith's astonished comprehension, Mr Boffin went on:

'And now, sir, I'll wish you good-day.  You can call at the Bower
any time in a week or two.  It's not above a mile or so from you,
and your landlord can direct you to it.  But as he may not know it
by it's new name of Boffin's Bower, say, when you inquire of him,
it's Harmon's; will you?'

'Harmoon's,' repeated Mr Rokesmith, seeming to have caught the
sound imperfectly, 'Harmarn's.  How do you spell it?'

'Why, as to the spelling of it,' returned Mr Boffin, with great
presence of mind, 'that's YOUR look out.  Harmon's is all you've
got to say to HIM.  Morning, morning, morning!'  And so departed,
without looking back.



Chapter 9

MR AND MRS BOFFIN IN CONSULTATION


Betaking himself straight homeward, Mr Boffin, without further let
or hindrance, arrived at the Bower, and gave Mrs Boffin (in a
walking dress of black velvet and feathers, like a mourning coach-
horse) an account of all he had said and done since breakfast.

'This brings us round, my dear,' he then pursued, 'to the question
we left unfinished: namely, whether there's to be any new go-in for
Fashion.'

'Now, I'll tell you what I want, Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin, smoothing
her dress with an air of immense enjoyment, 'I want Society.'

'Fashionable Society, my dear?'

'Yes!' cried Mrs Boffin, laughing with the glee of a child.  'Yes!
It's no good my being kept here like Wax-Work; is it now?'

'People have to pay to see Wax-Work, my dear,' returned her
husband, 'whereas (though you'd be cheap at the same money) the
neighbours is welcome to see YOU for nothing.'

'But it don't answer,' said the cheerful Mrs Boffin.  'When we
worked like the neighbours, we suited one another.  Now we have
left work off; we have left off suiting one another.'

'What, do you think of beginning work again?' Mr Boffin hinted.

'Out of the question!  We have come into a great fortune, and we
must do what's right by our fortune; we must act up to it.'

Mr Boffin, who had a deep respect for his wife's intuitive wisdom,
replied, though rather pensively: 'I suppose we must.'

'It's never been acted up to yet, and, consequently, no good has
come of it,' said Mrs Boffin.

'True, to the present time,' Mr Boffin assented, with his former
pensiveness, as he took his seat upon his settle.  'I hope good may
be coming of it in the future time.  Towards which, what's your
views, old lady?'

Mrs Boffin, a smiling creature, broad of figure and simple of
nature, with her hands folded in her lap, and with buxom creases
in her throat, proceeded to expound her views.

'I say, a good house in a good neighbourhood, good things about
us, good living, and good society.  I say, live like our means,
without extravagance, and be happy.'

'Yes.  I say be happy, too,' assented the still pensive Mr Boffin.
'Lor-a-mussy!' exclaimed Mrs Boffin, laughing and clapping her
hands, and gaily rocking herself to and fro, 'when I think of me in a
light yellow chariot and pair, with silver boxes to the wheels--'

'Oh! you was thinking of that, was you, my dear?'

'Yes!' cried the delighted creature. 'And with a footman up behind,
with a bar across, to keep his legs from being poled!  And with a
coachman up in front, sinking down into a seat big enough for
three of him, all covered with upholstery in green and white!  And
with two bay horses tossing their heads and stepping higher than
they trot long-ways!  And with you and me leaning back inside, as
grand as ninepence!  Oh-h-h-h My!  Ha ha ha ha ha!'

Mrs Boffin clapped her hands again, rocked herself again, beat her
feet upon the floor, and wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes.

'And what, my old lady,' inquired Mr Boffin, when he also had
sympathetically laughed: 'what's your views on the subject of the
Bower?'

'Shut it up.  Don't part with it, but put somebody in it, to keep it.'

'Any other views?'

'Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin, coming from her fashionable sofa to his
side on the plain settle, and hooking her comfortable arm through
his, 'Next I think--and I really have been thinking early and late--of
the disappointed girl; her that was so cruelly disappointed, you
know, both of her husband and his riches.  Don't you think we
might do something for her?  Have her to live with us?  Or
something of that sort?'

'Ne-ver once thought of the way of doing it!' cried Mr Boffin,
smiting the table in his admiration.  'What a thinking steam-ingein
this old lady is.  And she don't know how she does it.  Neither does
the ingein!'

Mrs Boffin pulled his nearest ear, in acknowledgment of this piece
of philosophy, and then said, gradually toning down to a motherly
strain: 'Last, and not least, I have taken a fancy.  You remember
dear little John Harmon, before he went to school?  Over yonder
across the yard, at our fire?  Now that he is past all benefit of the
money, and it's come to us, I should like to find some orphan child,
and take the boy and adopt him and give him John's name, and
provide for him.  Somehow, it would make me easier, I fancy.  Say
it's only a whim--'

'But I don't say so,' interposed her husband.

'No, but deary, if you did--'

'I should be a Beast if I did,' her husband interposed again.

'That's as much as to say you agree?  Good and kind of you, and
like you, deary!  And don't you begin to find it pleasant now,' said
Mrs Boffin, once more radiant in her comely way from head to
foot, and once more smoothing her dress with immense enjoyment,
'don't you begin to find it pleasant already, to think that a child will
be made brighter, and better, and happier, because of that poor sad
child that day?  And isn't it pleasant to know that the good will be
done with the poor sad child's own money?'

'Yes; and it's pleasant to know that you are Mrs Boffin,' said her
husband, 'and it's been a pleasant thing to know this many and
many a year!'  It was ruin to Mrs Boffin's aspirations, but, having
so spoken, they sat side by side, a hopelessly Unfashionable pair.

These two ignorant and unpolished people had guided themselves
so far on in their journey of life, by a religious sense of duty and
desire to do right.  Ten thousand weaknesses and absurdities might
have been detected in the breasts of both; ten thousand vanities
additional, possibly, in the breast of the woman.  But the hard
wrathful and sordid nature that had wrung as much work out of
them as could be got in their best days, for as little money as could
be paid to hurry on their worst, had never been so warped but that
it knew their moral straightness and respected it.  In its own
despite, in a constant conflict with itself and them, it had done so.
And this is the eternal law.  For, Evil often stops short at itself and
dies with the doer of it; but Good, never.

Through his most inveterate purposes, the dead Jailer of Harmony
Jail had known these two faithful servants to be honest and true.
While he raged at them and reviled them for opposing him with the
speech of the honest and true, it had scratched his stony heart, and
he had perceived the powerlessness of all his wealth to buy them if
he had addressed himself to the attempt.  So, even while he was
their griping taskmaster and never gave them a good word, he had
written their names down in his will.  So, even while it was his
daily declaration that he mistrusted all mankind--and sorely indeed
he did mistrust all who bore any resemblance to himself--he was as
certain that these two people, surviving him, would be trustworthy
in all things from the greatest to the least, as he was that he must
surely die.

Mr and Mrs Boffin, sitting side by side, with Fashion withdrawn
to an immeasurable distance, fell to discussing how they could best
find their orphan.  Mrs Boffin suggested advertisement in the
newspapers, requesting orphans answering annexed description to
apply at the Bower on a certain day; but Mr Boffin wisely
apprehending obstruction of the neighbouring thoroughfares by
orphan swarms, this course was negatived.  Mrs Boffin next
suggested application to their clergyman for a likely orphan.  Mr
Boffin thinking better of this scheme, they resolved to call upon the
reverend gentleman at once, and to take the same opportunity of
making acquaintance with Miss Bella Wilfer.  In order that these
visits might be visits of state, Mrs Boffin's equipage was ordered
out.

This consisted of a long hammer-headed old horse, formerly used
in the business, attached to a four-wheeled chaise of the same
period, which had long been exclusively used by the Harmony Jail
poultry as the favourite laying-place of several discreet hens.  An
unwonted application of corn to the horse, and of paint and varnish
to the carriage, when both fell in as a part of the Boffin legacy, had
made what Mr Boffin considered a neat turn-out of the whole; and
a driver being added, in the person of a long hammer-headed
young man who was a very good match for the horse, left nothing
to be desired.  He, too, had been formerly used in the business, but
was now entombed by an honest jobbing tailor of the district in a
perfect Sepulchre of coat and gaiters, sealed with ponderous
buttons.

Behind this domestic, Mr and Mrs Boffin took their seats in the
back compartment of the vehicle: which was sufficiently
commodious, but had an undignified and alarming tendency, in
getting over a rough crossing, to hiccup itself away from the front
compartment.  On their being descried emerging from the gates of
the Bower, the neighbourhood turned out at door and window to
salute the Boffins.  Among those who were ever and again left
behind, staring after the equipage, were many youthful spirits, who
hailed it in stentorian tones with such congratulations as 'Nod-dy
Bof-fin!'  'Bof-fin's mon-ey!'  'Down with the dust, Bof-fin!' and
other similar compliments.  These, the hammer-headed young man
took in such ill part that he often impaired the majesty of the
progress by pulling up short, and making as though he would
alight to exterminate the offenders; a purpose from which he only
allowed himself to be dissuaded after long and lively arguments
with his employers.

At length the Bower district was left behind, and the peaceful
dwelling of the Reverend Frank Milvey was gained.  The Reverend
Frank Milvey's abode was a very modest abode, because his
income was a very modest income.  He was officially accessible to
every blundering old woman who had incoherence to bestow upon
him, and readily received the Boffins.  He was quite a young man,
expensively educated and wretchedly paid, with quite a young wife
and half a dozen quite young children.  He was under the necessity
of teaching and translating from the classics, to eke out his scanty
means, yet was generally expected to have more time to spare than
the idlest person in the parish, and more money than the richest.
He accepted the needless inequalities and inconsistencies of his
life, with a kind of conventional submission that was almost
slavish; and any daring layman who would have adjusted such
burdens as his, more decently and graciously, would have had
small help from him.

With a ready patient face and manner, and yet with a latent smile
that showed a quick enough observation of Mrs Boffin's dress, Mr
Milvey, in his little book-room--charged with sounds and cries as
though the six children above were coming down through the
ceiling, and the roasting leg of mutton below were coming up
through the floor--listened to Mrs Boffin's statement of her want of
an orphan.

'I think,' said Mr Milvey, 'that you have never had a child of your
own, Mr and Mrs Boffin?'

Never.

'But, like the Kings and Queens in the Fairy Tales, I suppose you
have wished for one?'

In a general way, yes.

Mr Milvey smiled again, as he remarked to himself 'Those kings
and queens were always wishing for children.'  It occurring to him,
perhaps, that if they had been Curates, their wishes might have
tended in the opposite direction.

'I think,' he pursued, 'we had better take Mrs Milvey into our
Council.  She is indispensable to me.  If you please, I'll call her.'

So, Mr Milvey called, 'Margaretta, my dear!' and Mrs Milvey came
down.  A pretty, bright little woman, something worn by anxiety,
who had repressed many pretty tastes and bright fancies, and
substituted in their stead, schools, soup, flannel, coals, and all the
week-day cares and Sunday coughs of a large population, young
and old.  As gallantly had Mr Milvey repressed much in himself
that naturally belonged to his old studies and old fellow-students,
and taken up among the poor and their children with the hard
crumbs of life.

'Mr and Mrs Boffin, my dear, whose good fortune you have heard
of.'

Mrs Milvey, with the most unaffected grace in the world,
congratulated them, and was glad to see them.  Yet her engaging
face, being an open as well as a perceptive one, was not without
her husband's latent smile.

'Mrs Boffin wishes to adopt a little boy, my dear.'

Mrs Milvey, looking rather alarmed, her husband added:

'An orphan, my dear.'

'Oh!' said Mrs Milvey, reassured for her own little boys.

'And I was thinking, Margaretta, that perhaps old Mrs Goody's
grandchild might answer the purpose.

'Oh my DEAR Frank!  I DON'T think that would do!'

'No?'

'Oh NO!'

The smiling Mrs Boffin, feeling it incumbent on her to take part in
the conversation, and being charmed with the emphatic little wife
and her ready interest, here offered her acknowledgments and
inquired what there was against him?

'I DON'T think,' said Mrs Milvey, glancing at the Reverend Frank'
--and I believe my husband will agree with me when he considers it
again--that you could possibly keep that orphan clean from snuff.
Because his grandmother takes so MANY ounces, and drops it
over him.'

'But he would not be living with his grandmother then,
Margaretta,' said Mr Milvey.

'No, Frank, but it would be impossible to keep her from Mrs
Boffin's house; and the MORE there was to eat and drink there, the
oftener she would go.  And she IS an inconvenient woman.  I
HOPE it's not uncharitable to remember that last Christmas Eve
she drank eleven cups of tea, and grumbled all the time.  And she
is NOT a grateful woman, Frank.  You recollect her addressing a
crowd outside this house, about her wrongs, when, one night after
we had gone to bed, she brought back the petticoat of new flannel
that had been given her, because it was too short.'

'That's true,' said Mr Milvey.  'I don't think that would do.  Would
little Harrison--'

'Oh, FRANK!' remonstrated his emphatic wife.

'He has no grandmother, my dear.'

'No, but I DON'T think Mrs Boffin would like an orphan who
squints so MUCH.'

'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey, becoming haggard with
perplexity.  'If a little girl would do--'

'But, my DEAR Frank, Mrs Boffin wants a boy.'

'That's true again,' said Mr Milvey.  'Tom Bocker is a nice boy'
(thoughtfully).

'But I DOUBT, Frank,' Mrs Milvey hinted, after a little hesitation,
'if Mrs Boffin wants an orphan QUITE nineteen, who drives a cart
and waters the roads.'

Mr Milvey referred the point to Mrs Boffin in a look; on that
smiling lady's shaking her black velvet bonnet and bows, he
remarked, in lower spirits, 'that's true again.'

'I am sure,' said Mrs Boffin, concerned at giving so much trouble,
'that if I had known you would have taken so much pains, sir--and
you too, ma' am--I don't think I would have come.'

'PRAY don't say that!' urged Mrs Milvey.

'No, don't say that,' assented Mr Milvey, 'because we are so much
obliged to you for giving us the preference.'  Which Mrs Milvey
confirmed; and really the kind, conscientious couple spoke, as if
they kept some profitable orphan warehouse and were personally
patronized.  'But it is a responsible trust,' added Mr Milvey, 'and
difficult to discharge.  At the same time, we are naturally very
unwilling to lose the chance you so kindly give us, and if you could
afford us a day or two to look about us,--you know, Margaretta, we
might carefully examine the workhouse, and the Infant School, and
your District.'

'To be SURE!' said the emphatic little wife.

'We have orphans, I know,' pursued Mr Milvey, quite with the air
as if he might have added, 'in stock,' and quite as anxiously as if
there were great competition in the business and he were afraid of
losing an order, 'over at the clay-pits; but they are employed by
relations or friends, and I am afraid it would come at last to a
transaction in the way of barter.  And even if you exchanged
blankets for the child--or books and firing--it would be impossible
to prevent their being turned into liquor.'

Accordingly, it was resolved that Mr and Mrs Milvey should
search for an orphan likely to suit, and as free as possible from the
foregoing objections, and should communicate again with Mrs
Boffin.  Then, Mr Boffin took the liberty of mentioning to Mr
Milvey that if Mr Milvey would do him the kindness to be
perpetually his banker to the extent of 'a twenty-pound note or so,'
to be expended without any reference to him, he would be heartily
obliged.  At this, both Mr Milvey and Mrs Milvey were quite as
much pleased as if they had no wants of their own, but only knew
what poverty was, in the persons of other people; and so the
interview terminated with satisfaction and good opinion on all
sides.

'Now, old lady,' said Mr Boffin, as they resumed their seats behind
the hammer-headed horse and man: 'having made a very agreeable
visit there, we'll try Wilfer's.'

It appeared, on their drawing up at the family gate, that to try
Wilfer's was a thing more easily projected than done, on account of
the extreme difficulty of getting into that establishment; three pulls
at the bell producing no external result; though each was attended
by audible sounds of scampering and rushing within.  At the fourth
tug--vindictively administered by the hammer-headed young man--
Miss Lavinia appeared, emerging from the house in an accidental
manner, with a bonnet and parasol, as designing to take a
contemplative walk.  The young lady was astonished to find
visitors at the gate, and expressed her feelings in appropriate
action.

'Here's Mr and Mrs Boffin!' growled the hammer-headed young
man through the bars of the gate, and at the same time shaking it,
as if he were on view in a Menagerie; 'they've been here half an
hour.'

'Who did you say?' asked Miss Lavinia.

'Mr and Mrs BOFFIN' returned the young man, rising into a roar.

Miss Lavinia tripped up the steps to the house-door, tripped down
the steps with the key, tripped across the little garden, and opened
the gate.  'Please to walk in,' said Miss Lavinia, haughtily.  'Our
servant is out.'

Mr and Mrs Boffin complying, and pausing in the little hall until
Miss Lavinia came up to show them where to go next, perceived
three pairs of listening legs upon the stairs above.  Mrs Wilfer's
legs, Miss Bella's legs, Mr George Sampson's legs.

'Mr and Mrs Boffin, I think?' said Lavinia, in a warning voice.
Strained attention on the part of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's
legs, of Mr George Sampson's legs.

'Yes, Miss.'

'If you'll step this way--down these stairs--I'll let Ma know.'
Excited flight of Mrs Wilfer's legs, of Miss Bella's legs, of Mr
George Sampson's legs.

After waiting some quarter of an hour alone in the family sitting-
room, which presented traces of having been so hastily arranged
after a meal, that one might have doubted whether it was made tidy
for visitors, or cleared for blindman's buff, Mr and Mrs Boffin
became aware of the entrance of Mrs Wilfer, majestically faint, and
with a condescending stitch in her side: which was her company
manner.

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer, after the first salutations, and as soon
as she had adjusted the handkerchief under her chin, and waved
her gloved hands, 'to what am I indebted for this honour?'

'To make short of it, ma'am,' returned Mr Boffin, 'perhaps you may
be acquainted with the names of me and Mrs Boffin, as having
come into a certain property.'

'I have heard, sir,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with a dignified bend of
her head, 'of such being the case.'

'And I dare say, ma'am,' pursued Mr Boffin, while Mrs Boffin
added confirmatory nods and smiles, 'you are not very much
inclined to take kindly to us?'

'Pardon me,' said Mrs Wilfer.  ''Twere unjust to visit upon Mr and
Mrs Boffin, a calamity which was doubtless a dispensation.'  These
words were rendered the more effective by a serenely heroic
expression of suffering.

'That's fairly meant, I am sure,' remarked the honest Mr Boffin;
'Mrs Boffin and me, ma'am, are plain people, and we don't want to
pretend to anything, nor yet to go round and round at anything
because there's always a straight way to everything.  Consequently,
we make this call to say, that we shall be glad to have the honour
and pleasure of your daughter's acquaintance, and that we shall be
rejoiced if your daughter will come to consider our house in the
light of her home equally with this.  In short, we want to cheer your
daughter, and to give her the opportunity of sharing such pleasures
as we are a going to take ourselves.  We want to brisk her up, and
brisk her about, and give her a change.'

'That's it!' said the open-hearted Mrs Boffin.  'Lor!  Let's be
comfortable.'

Mrs Wilfer bent her head in a distant manner to her lady visitor,
and with majestic monotony replied to the gentleman:

'Pardon me.  I have several daughters.  Which of my daughters am
I to understand is thus favoured by the kind intentions of Mr Boffin
and his lady?'

'Don't you see?' the ever-smiling Mrs Boffin put in.  'Naturally,
Miss Bella, you know.'

'Oh-h!' said Mrs Wilfer, with a severely unconvinced look.  'My
daughter Bella is accessible and shall speak for herself.'  Then
opening the door a little way, simultaneously with a sound of
scuttling outside it, the good lady made the proclamation, 'Send
Miss Bella to me!' which proclamation, though grandly formal, and
one might almost say heraldic, to hear, was in fact enunciated with
her maternal eyes reproachfully glaring on that young lady in the
flesh--and in so much of it that she was retiring with difficulty into
the small closet under the stairs, apprehensive of the emergence of
Mr and Mrs Boffin.

'The avocations of R. W., my husband,' Mrs Wilfer explained, on
resuming her seat, 'keep him fully engaged in the City at this time
of the day, or he would have had the honour of participating in
your reception beneath our humble roof.'

'Very pleasant premises!' said Mr Boffin, cheerfully.

'Pardon me, sir,' returned Mrs Wilfer, correcting him, 'it is the
abode of conscious though independent Poverty.'

Finding it rather difficult to pursue the conversation down this
road, Mr and Mrs Boffin sat staring at mid-air, and Mrs Wilfer sat
silently giving them to understand that every breath she drew
required to be drawn with a self-denial rarely paralleled in history,
until Miss Bella appeared: whom Mrs Wilfer presented, and to
whom she explained the purpose of the visitors.

'I am much obliged to you, I am sure,' said Miss Bella, coldly
shaking her curls, 'but I doubt if I have the inclination to go out at
all.'

'Bella!' Mrs Wilfer admonished her; 'Bella, you must conquer this.'

'Yes, do what your Ma says, and conquer it, my dear,' urged Mrs
Boffin, 'because we shall be so glad to have you, and because you
are much too pretty to keep yourself shut up.'  With that, the
pleasant creature gave her a kiss, and patted her on her dimpled
shoulders; Mrs Wilfer sitting stiffly by, like a functionary presiding
over an interview previous to an execution.

'We are going to move into a nice house,' said Mrs Boffin, who
was woman enough to compromise Mr Boffin on that point, when
he couldn't very well contest it; 'and we are going to set up a nice
carriage, and we'll go everywhere and see everything.  And you
mustn't,' seating Bella beside her, and patting her hand, 'you
mustn't feel a dislike to us to begin with, because we couldn't help
it, you know, my dear.'

With the natural tendency of youth to yield to candour and sweet
temper, Miss Bella was so touched by the simplicity of this address
that she frankly returned Mrs Boffin's kiss.  Not at all to the
satisfaction of that good woman of the world, her mother, who
sought to hold the advantageous ground of obliging the Boffins
instead of being obliged.

'My youngest daughter, Lavinia,' said Mrs Wilfer, glad to make a
diversion, as that young lady reappeared.  'Mr George Sampson, a
friend of the family.'

The friend of the family was in that stage of tender passion which
bound him to regard everybody else as the foe of the family.  He
put the round head of his cane in his mouth, like a stopper, when
he sat down.  As if he felt himself full to the throat with affronting
sentiments.  And he eyed the Boffins with implacable eyes.

'If you like to bring your sister with you when you come to stay
with us,' said Mrs Boffin, 'of course we shall be glad.  The better
you please yourself, Miss Bella, the better you'll please us.'

'Oh, my consent is of no consequence at all, I suppose?' cried Miss
Lavinia.

'Lavvy,' said her sister, in a low voice, 'have the goodness to be
seen and not heard.'

'No, I won't,' replied the sharp Lavinia.  'I'm not a child, to be taken
notice of by strangers.'

'You ARE a child.'

'I'm not a child, and I won't be taken notice of.  "Bring your sister,"
indeed!'

'Lavinia!' said Mrs Wilfer.  'Hold!  I will not allow you to utter in
my presence the absurd suspicion that any strangers--I care not
what their names--can patronize my child.  Do you dare to
suppose, you ridiculous girl, that Mr and Mrs Boffin would enter
these doors upon a patronizing errand; or, if they did, would
remain within them, only for one single instant, while your mother
had the strength yet remaining in her vital frame to request them to
depart?  You little know your mother if you presume to think so.'

'It's all very fine,' Lavinia began to grumble, when Mrs Wilfer
repeated:

'Hold!  I will not allow this.  Do you not know what is due to
guests?  Do you not comprehend that in presuming to hint that this
lady and gentleman could have any idea of patronizing any
member of your family--I care not which--you accuse them of an
impertinence little less than insane?'

'Never mind me and Mrs Boffin, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin,
smilingly: 'we don't care.'

'Pardon me, but I do,' returned Mrs Wilfer.

Miss Lavinia laughed a short laugh as she muttered, 'Yes, to be
sure.'

'And I require my audacious child,' proceeded Mrs Wilfer, with a
withering look at her youngest, on whom it had not the slightest
effect, 'to please to be just to her sister Bella; to remember that her
sister Bella is much sought after; and that when her sister Bella
accepts an attention, she considers herself to be conferring qui-i-ite
as much honour,'--this with an indignant shiver,--'as she receives.'

But, here Miss Bella repudiated, and said quietly, 'I can speak for
myself; you know, ma.  You needn't bring ME in, please.'

'And it's all very well aiming at others through convenient me,'
said the irrepressible Lavinia, spitefully; 'but I should like to ask
George Sampson what he says to it.'

'Mr Sampson,' proclaimed Mrs Wilfer, seeing that young
gentleman take his stopper out, and so darkly fixing him with her
eyes as that he put it in again: 'Mr Sampson, as a friend of this
family and a frequenter of this house, is, I am persuaded, far too
well-bred to interpose on such an invitation.'

This exaltation of the young gentleman moved the conscientious
Mrs Boffin to repentance for having done him an injustice in her
mind, and consequently to saying that she and Mr Boffin would at
any time be glad to see him; an attention which he handsomely
acknowledged by replying, with his stopper unremoved, 'Much
obliged to you, but I'm always engaged, day and night.'

However, Bella compensating for all drawbacks by responding to
the advances of the Boffins in an engaging way, that easy pair were
on the whole well satisfied, and proposed to the said Bella that as
soon as they should be in a condition to receive her in a manner
suitable to their desires, Mrs Boffin should return with notice of
the fact.  This arrangement Mrs Wilfer sanctioned with a stately
inclination of her head and wave of her gloves, as who should say,
'Your demerits shall be overlooked, and you shall be mercifully
gratified, poor people.'

'By-the-bye, ma'am,' said Mr Boffin, turning back as he was
going, 'you have a lodger?'

'A gentleman,' Mrs Wilfer answered, qualifying the low
expression, 'undoubtedly occupies our first floor.'

'I may call him Our Mutual Friend,' said Mr Boffin.  'What sort of
a fellow IS Our Mutual Friend, now?  Do you like him?'

'Mr Rokesmith is very punctual, very quiet, a very eligible inmate.'

'Because,' Mr Boffin explained, 'you must know that I'm not
particularly well acquainted with Our Mutual Friend, for I have
only seen him once.  You give a good account of him.  Is he at
home?'

'Mr Rokesmith is at home,' said Mrs Wilfer; 'indeed,' pointing
through the window, 'there he stands at the garden gate.  Waiting
for you, perhaps?'

'Perhaps so,' replied Mr Boffin.  'Saw me come in, maybe.'

Bella had closely attended to this short dialogue.  Accompanying
Mrs Boffin to the gate, she as closely watched what followed.

'How are you, sir, how are you?' said Mr Boffin.  'This is Mrs
Boffin.  Mr Rokesmith, that I told you of; my dear.'

She gave him good day, and he bestirred himself and helped her to
her seat, and the like, with a ready hand.

'Good-bye for the present, Miss Bella,' said Mrs Boffin, calling out
a hearty parting.  'We shall meet again soon!  And then I hope I
shall have my little John Harmon to show you.'

Mr Rokesmith, who was at the wheel adjusting the skirts of her
dress, suddenly looked behind him, and around him, and then
looked up at her, with a face so pale that Mrs Boffin cried:

'Gracious!'  And after a moment, 'What's the matter, sir?'

'How can you show her the Dead?' returned Mr Rokesmith.

'It's only an adopted child.  One I have told her of.  One I'm going
to give the name to!'

'You took me by surprise,' said Mr Rokesmith, 'and it sounded like
an omen, that you should speak of showing the Dead to one so
young and blooming.'

Now, Bella suspected by this time that Mr Rokesmith admired her.
Whether the knowledge (for it was rather that than suspicion)
caused her to incline to him a little more, or a little less, than she
had done at first; whether it rendered her eager to find out more
about him, because she sought to establish reason for her distrust,
or because she sought to free him from it; was as yet dark to her
own heart.  But at most times he occupied a great amount of her
attention, and she had set her attention closely on this incident.

That he knew it as well as she, she knew as well as he, when they
were left together standing on the path by the garden gate.

'Those are worthy people, Miss Wilfer.'

'Do you know them well?' asked Bella.

He smiled, reproaching her, and she coloured, reproaching herself
--both, with the knowledge that she had meant to entrap him into an
answer not true--when he said 'I know OF them.'

'Truly, he told us he had seen you but once.'

'Truly, I supposed he did.'

Bella was nervous now, and would have been glad to recall her
question.

'You thought it strange that, feeling much interested in you, I
should start at what sounded like a proposal to bring you into
contact with the murdered man who lies in his grave.  I might have
known--of course in a moment should have known--that it could
not have that meaning.  But my interest remains.'

Re-entering the family-room in a meditative state, Miss Bella was
received by the irrepressible Lavinia with:

'There, Bella!  At last I hope you have got your wishes realized--by
your Boffins.  You'll be rich enough now--with your Boffins.  You
can have as much flirting as you like--at your Boffins.  But you
won't take ME to your Boffins, I can tell you--you and your Boffins
too!'

'If,' quoth Mr George Sampson, moodily pulling his stopper out,
'Miss Bella's Mr Boffin comes any more of his nonsense to ME, I
only wish him to understand, as betwixt man and man, that he
does it at his per--' and was going to say peril; but Miss Lavinia,
having no confidence in his mental powers, and feeling his oration
to have no definite application to any circumstances, jerked his
stopper in again, with a sharpness that made his eyes water.

And now the worthy Mrs Wilfer, having used her youngest
daughter as a lay-figure for the edification of these Boffins, became
bland to her, and proceeded to develop her last instance of force of
character, which was still in reserve.  This was, to illuminate the
family with her remarkable powers as a physiognomist; powers
that terrified R. W. when ever let loose, as being always fraught
with gloom and evil which no inferior prescience was aware of.
And this Mrs Wilfer now did, be it observed, in jealousy of these
Boffins, in the very same moments when she was already reflecting
how she would flourish these very same Boffins and the state they
kept, over the heads of her Boffinless friends.

'Of their manners,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'I say nothing.  Of their
appearance, I say nothing.  Of the disinterestedness of their
intentions towards Bella, I say nothing.  But the craft, the secrecy,
the dark deep underhanded plotting, written in Mrs Boffin's
countenance, make me shudder.'

As an incontrovertible proof that those baleful attributes were all
there, Mrs Wilfer shuddered on the spot.



Chapter 10

A MARRIAGE CONTRACT


There is excitement in the Veneering mansion.  The mature young
lady is going to be married (powder and all) to the mature young
gentleman, and she is to be married from the Veneering house, and
the Veneerings are to give the breakfast.  The Analytical, who
objects as a matter of principle to everything that occurs on the
premises, necessarily objects to the match; but his consent has
been dispensed with, and a spring-van is delivering its load of
greenhouse plants at the door, in order that to-morrow's feast may
be crowned with flowers.

The mature young lady is a lady of property.  The mature young
gentleman is a gentleman of property.  He invests his property.  He
goes, in a condescending amateurish way, into the City, attends
meetings of Directors, and has to do with traffic in Shares.  As is
well known to the wise in their generation, traffic in Shares is the
one thing to have to do with in this world.  Have no antecedents,
no established character, no cultivation, no ideas, no manners;
have Shares.  Have Shares enough to be on Boards of Direction in
capital letters, oscillate on mysterious business between London
and Paris, and be great.  Where does he come from?  Shares.
Where is he going to?  Shares.  What are his tastes?  Shares.  Has
he any principles?  Shares.  What squeezes him into Parliament?
Shares.  Perhaps he never of himself achieved success in anything,
never originated anything, never produced anything?  Sufficient
answer to all; Shares.  O mighty Shares!  To set those blaring
images so high, and to cause us smaller vermin, as under the
influence of henbane or opium, to cry out, night and day, 'Relieve
us of our money, scatter it for us, buy us and sell us, ruin us, only
we beseech ye take rank among the powers of the earth, and fatten
on us'!

While the Loves and Graces have been preparing this torch for
Hymen, which is to be kindled to-morrow, Mr Twemlow has
suffered much in his mind.  It would seem that both the mature
young lady and the mature young gentleman must indubitably be
Veneering's oldest friends.  Wards of his, perhaps?  Yet that can
scarcely be, for they are older than himself.  Veneering has been in
their confidence throughout, and has done much to lure them to the
altar.  He has mentioned to Twemlow how he said to Mrs
Veneering, 'Anastatia, this must be a match.'  He has mentioned to
Twemlow how he regards Sophronia Akershem (the mature young
lady) in the light of a sister, and Alfred Lammle (the mature young
gentleman) in the light of a brother.  Twemlow has asked him
whether he went to school as a junior with Alfred?  He has
answered, 'Not exactly.'  Whether Sophronia was adopted by his
mother?  He has answered, 'Not precisely so.'  Twemlow's hand
has gone to his forehead with a lost air.

But, two or three weeks ago, Twemlow, sitting over his
newspaper, and over his dry-toast and weak tea, and over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, St James's, received a highly-perfumed
cocked-hat and monogram from Mrs Veneering, entreating her
dearest Mr T., if not particularly engaged that day, to come like a
charming soul and make a fourth at dinner with dear Mr Podsnap,
for the discussion of an interesting family topic; the last three
words doubly underlined and pointed with a note of admiration.
And Twemlow replying, 'Not engaged, and more than delighted,'
goes, and this takes place:

'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, 'your ready response to
Anastatia's unceremonious invitation is truly kind, and like an old,
old friend.  You know our dear friend Podsnap?'

Twemlow ought to know the dear friend Podsnap who covered him
with so much confusion, and he says he does know him, and
Podsnap reciprocates.  Apparently, Podsnap has been so wrought
upon in a short time, as to believe that he has been intimate in the
house many, many, many years.  In the friendliest manner he is
making himself quite at home with his back to the fire, executing a
statuette of the Colossus at Rhodes.  Twemlow has before noticed
in his feeble way how soon the Veneering guests become infected
with the Veneering fiction.  Not, however, that he has the least
notion of its being his own case.

'Our friends, Alfred and Sophronia,' pursues Veneering the veiled
prophet: 'our friends Alfred and Sophronia, you will be glad to
hear, my dear fellows, are going to be married.  As my wife and I
make it a family affair the entire direction of which we take upon
ourselves, of course our first step is to communicate the fact to our
family friends.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes on Podsnap, 'then there are
only two of us, and he's the other.')

'I did hope,' Veneering goes on, 'to have had Lady Tippins to meet
you; but she is always in request, and is unfortunately engaged.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes wandering, 'then there are
three of us, and SHE'S the other.')

'Mortimer Lightwood,' resumes Veneering, 'whom you both know,
is out of town; but he writes, in his whimsical manner, that as we
ask him to be bridegroom's best man when the ceremony takes
place, he will not refuse, though he doesn't see what he has to do
with it.'

('Oh!' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes rolling, 'then there are four of
us, and HE'S the other.')

'Boots and Brewer,' observes Veneering, 'whom you also know, I
have not asked to-day; but I reserve them for the occasion.'

('Then,' thinks Twemlow, with his eyes shut, 'there are si--'  But
here collapses and does not completely recover until dinner is over
and the Analytical has been requested to withdraw.)

'We now come,' says Veneering, 'to the point, the real point, of our
little family consultation.  Sophronia, having lost both father and
mother, has no one to give her away.'

'Give her away yourself,' says Podsnap.

'My dear Podsnap, no.  For three reasons.  Firstly, because I
couldn't take so much upon myself when I have respected family
friends to remember.  Secondly, because I am not so vain as to
think that I look the part.  Thirdly, because Anastatia is a little
superstitious on the subject and feels averse to my giving away
anybody until baby is old enough to be married.'

'What would happen if he did?' Podsnap inquires of Mrs Veneering.

'My dear Mr Podsnap, it's very foolish I know, but I have an
instinctive presentiment that if Hamilton gave away anybody else
first, he would never give away baby.'  Thus Mrs Veneering; with
her open hands pressed together, and each of her eight aquiline
fingers looking so very like her one aquiline nose that the bran-new
jewels on them seem necessary for distinction's sake.

'But, my dear Podsnap,' quoth Veneering, 'there IS a tried friend of
our family who, I think and hope you will agree with me, Podsnap,
is the friend on whom this agreeable duty almost naturally
devolves.  That friend,' saying the words as if the company were
about a hundred and fifty in number, 'is now among us.  That
friend is Twemlow.'

'Certainly!'  From Podsnap.

'That friend,' Veneering repeats with greater firmness, 'is our dear
good Twemlow.  And I cannot sufficiently express to you, my dear
Podsnap, the pleasure I feel in having this opinion of mine and
Anastatia's so readily confirmed by you, that other equally familiar
and tried friend who stands in the proud position--I mean who
proudly stands in the position--or I ought rather to say, who places
Anastatia and myself in the proud position of himself standing in
the simple position--of baby's godfather.'  And, indeed, Veneering
is much relieved in mind to find that Podsnap betrays no jealousy
of Twemlow's elevation.

So, it has come to pass that the spring-van is strewing flowers on
the rosy hours and on the staircase, and that Twemlow is surveying
the ground on which he is to play his distinguished part to-
morrow.  He has already been to the church, and taken note of the
various impediments in the aisle, under the auspices of an
extremely dreary widow who opens the pews, and whose left hand
appears to be in a state of acute rheumatism, but is in fact
voluntarily doubled up to act as a money-box.

And now Veneering shoots out of the Study wherein he is
accustomed, when contemplative, to give his mind to the carving
and gilding of the Pilgrims going to Canterbury, in order to show
Twemlow the little flourish he has prepared for the trumpets of
fashion, describing how that on the seventeenth instant, at St
James's Church, the Reverend Blank Blank, assisted by the
Reverend Dash Dash, united in the bonds of matrimony, Alfred
Lammle Esquire, of Sackville Street, Piccadilly, to Sophronia, only
daughter of the late Horatio Akershem, Esquire, of Yorkshire.
Also how the fair bride was married from the house of Hamilton
Veneering, Esquire, of Stucconia, and was given away by Melvin
Twemlow, Esquire, of Duke Street, St James's, second cousin to
Lord Snigsworth, of Snigsworthy Park.  While perusing which
composition, Twemlow makes some opaque approach to
perceiving that if the Reverend Blank Blank and the Reverend
Dash Dash fail, after this introduction, to become enrolled in the
list of Veneering's dearest and oldest friends, they will have none
but themselves to thank for it.

After which, appears Sophronia (whom Twemlow has seen twice
in his lifetime), to thank Twemlow for counterfeiting the late
Horatio Akershem Esquire, broadly of Yorkshire.  And after her,
appears Alfred (whom Twemlow has seen once in his lifetime), to
do the same and to make a pasty sort of glitter, as if he were
constructed for candle-light only, and had been let out into daylight
by some grand mistake.  And after that, comes Mrs Veneering, in a
pervadingly aquiline state of figure, and with transparent little
knobs on her temper, like the little transparent knob on the bridge
of her nose, 'Worn out by worry and excitement,' as she tells her
dear Mr Twemlow, and reluctantly revived with curacoa by the
Analytical.  And after that, the bridesmaids begin to come by rail-
road from various parts of the country, and to come like adorable
recruits enlisted by a sergeant not present; for, on arriving at the
Veneering depot, they are in a barrack of strangers.

So, Twemlow goes home to Duke Street, St James's, to take a plate
of mutton broth with a chop in it, and a look at the marriage-
service, in order that he may cut in at the right place to-morrow;
and he is low, and feels it dull over the livery stable-yard, and is
distinctly aware of a dint in his heart, made by the most adorable
of the adorable bridesmaids.  For, the poor little harmless
gentleman once had his fancy, like the rest of us, and she didn't
answer (as she often does not), and he thinks the adorable
bridesmaid is like the fancy as she was then (which she is not at
all), and that if the fancy had not married some one else for money,
but had married him for love, he and she would have been happy
(which they wouldn't have been), and that she has a tenderness for
him still (whereas her toughness is a proverb).  Brooding over the
fire, with his dried little head in his dried little hands, and his dried
little elbows on his dried little knees, Twemlow is melancholy.
'No Adorable to bear me company here!' thinks he.  'No Adorable
at the club!  A waste, a waste, a waste, my Twemlow!'  And so
drops asleep, and has galvanic starts all over him.

Betimes next morning, that horrible old Lady Tippins (relict of the
late Sir Thomas Tippins, knighted in mistake for somebody else by
His Majesty King George the Third, who, while performing the
ceremony, was graciously pleased to observe, 'What, what, what?
Who, who, who?  Why, why, why?') begins to be dyed and
varnished for the interesting occasion.  She has a reputation for
giving smart accounts of things, and she must be at these people's
early, my dear, to lose nothing of the fun.  Whereabout in the
bonnet and drapery announced by her name, any fragment of the
real woman may be concealed, is perhaps known to her maid; but
you could easily buy all you see of her, in Bond Street; or you
might scalp her, and peel her, and scrape her, and make two Lady
Tippinses out of her, and yet not penetrate to the genuine article.
She has a large gold eye-glass, has Lady Tippins, to survey the
proceedings with.  If she had one in each eye, it might keep that
other drooping lid up, and look more uniform.  But perennial youth
is in her artificial flowers, and her list of lovers is full.

'Mortimer, you wretch,' says Lady Tippins, turning the eyeglass
about and about, 'where is your charge, the bridegroom?'

'Give you my honour,' returns Mortimer, 'I don't know, and I don't
care.'

'Miserable!  Is that the way you do your duty?'

'Beyond an impression that he is to sit upon my knee and be
seconded at some point of the solemnities, like a principal at a
prizefight, I assure you I have no notion what my duty is,' returns
Mortimer.

Eugene is also in attendance, with a pervading air upon him of
having presupposed the ceremony to be a funeral, and of being
disappointed.  The scene is the Vestry-room of St James's Church,
with a number of leathery old registers on shelves, that might be
bound in Lady Tippinses.

But, hark!  A carriage at the gate, and Mortimer's man arrives,
looking rather like a spurious Mephistopheles and an
unacknowledged member of that gentleman's family.  Whom Lady
Tippins, surveying through her eye-glass, considers a fine man,
and quite a catch; and of whom Mortimer remarks, in the lowest
spirits, as he approaches, 'I believe this is my fellow, confound
him!'  More carriages at the gate, and lo the rest of the characters.
Whom Lady Tippins, standing on a cushion, surveying through the
eye-glass, thus checks off.  'Bride; five-and-forty if a day, thirty
shillings a yard, veil fifteen pound, pocket-handkerchief a present.
Bridesmaids; kept down for fear of outshining bride, consequently
not girls, twelve and sixpence a yard, Veneering's flowers, snub-
nosed one rather pretty but too conscious of her stockings, bonnets
three pound ten.  Twemlow; blessed release for the dear man if she
really was his daughter, nervous even under the pretence that she
is, well he may be.  Mrs Veneering; never saw such velvet, say two
thousand pounds as she stands, absolute jeweller's window, father
must have been a pawnbroker, or how could these people do it?
Attendant unknowns; pokey.'

Ceremony performed, register signed, Lady Tippins escorted out of
sacred edifice by Veneering, carriages rolling back to Stucconia,
servants with favours and flowers, Veneering's house reached,
drawing-rooms most magnificent.  Here, the Podsnaps await the
happy party; Mr Podsnap, with his hair-brushes made the most of;
that imperial rocking-horse, Mrs Podsnap, majestically skittish.
Here, too, are Boots and Brewer, and the two other Buffers; each
Buffer with a flower in his button-hole, his hair curled, and his
gloves buttoned on tight, apparently come prepared, if anything
had happened to the bridegroom, to be married instantly.  Here,
too, the bride's aunt and next relation; a widowed female of a
Medusa sort, in a stoney cap, glaring petrifaction at her fellow-
creatures.  Here, too, the bride's trustee; an oilcake-fed style of
business-gentleman with mooney spectacles, and an object of
much interest.  Veneering launching himself upon this trustee as
his oldest friend (which makes seven, Twemlow thought), and
confidentially retiring with him into the conservatory, it is
understood that Veneering is his co-trustee, and that they are
arranging about the fortune.  Buffers are even overheard to whisper
Thir-ty Thou-sand Pou-nds! with a smack and a relish suggestive
of the very finest oysters.  Pokey unknowns, amazed to find how
intimately they know Veneering, pluck up spirit, fold their arms,
and begin to contradict him before breakfast.  What time Mrs
Veneering, carrying baby dressed as a bridesmaid, flits about
among the company, emitting flashes of many-coloured lightning
from diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.

The Analytical, in course of time achieving what he feels to be due
to himself in bringing to a dignified conclusion several quarrels he
has on hand with the pastrycook's men, announces breakfast.
Dining-room no less magnificent than drawing-room; tables
superb; all the camels out, and all laden.  Splendid cake, covered
with Cupids, silver, and true-lovers' knots.  Splendid bracelet,
produced by Veneering before going down, and clasped upon the
arm of bride.  Yet nobody seems to think much more of the
Veneerings than if they were a tolerable landlord and landlady
doing the thing in the way of business at so much a head.  The
bride and bridegroom talk and laugh apart, as has always been
their manner; and the Buffers work their way through the dishes
with systematic perseverance, as has always been THEIR manner;
and the pokey unknowns are exceedingly benevolent to one another
in invitations to take glasses of champagne; but Mrs Podsnap,
arching her mane and rocking her grandest, has a far more
deferential audience than Mrs Veneering; and Podsnap all but does
the honours.

Another dismal circumstance is, that Veneering, having the
captivating Tippins on one side of him and the bride's aunt on the
other, finds it immensely difficult to keep the peace.  For, Medusa,
besides unmistakingly glaring petrifaction at the fascinating
Tippins, follows every lively remark made by that dear creature,
with an audible snort: which may be referable to a chronic cold in
the head, but may also be referable to indignation and contempt.
And this snort being regular in its reproduction, at length comes to
be expected by the company, who make embarrassing pauses when
it is falling due, and by waiting for it, render it more emphatic
when it comes.  The stoney aunt has likewise an injurious way of
rejecting all dishes whereof Lady Tippins partakes: saying aloud
when they are proffered to her, 'No, no, no, not for me.  Take it
away!'  As with a set purpose of implying a misgiving that if
nourished upon similar meats, she might come to be like that
charmer, which would be a fatal consummation.  Aware of her
enemy, Lady Tippins tries a youthful sally or two, and tries the eye-
glass; but, from the impenetrable cap and snorting armour of the
stoney aunt all weapons rebound powerless.

Another objectionable circumstance is, that the pokey unknowns
support each other in being unimpressible.  They persist in not
being frightened by the gold and silver camels, and they are
banded together to defy the elaborately chased ice-pails.  They even
seem to unite in some vague utterance of the sentiment that the
landlord and landlady will make a pretty good profit out of this,
and they almost carry themselves like customers.  Nor is there
compensating influence in the adorable bridesmaids; for, having
very little interest in the bride, and none at all in one another, those
lovely beings become, each one of her own account, depreciatingly
contemplative of the millinery present; while the bridegroom's
man, exhausted, in the back of his chair, appears to be improving
the occasion by penitentially contemplating all the wrong he has
ever done; the difference between him and his friend Eugene,
being, that the latter, in the back of HIS chair, appears to be
contemplating all the wrong he would like to do--particularly to the
present company.

In which state of affairs, the usual ceremonies rather droop and
flag, and the splendid cake when cut by the fair hand of the bride
has but an indigestible appearance.  However, all the things
indispensable to be said are said, and all the things indispensable
to be done are done (including Lady Tippins's yawning, falling
asleep, and waking insensible), and there is hurried preparation for
the nuptial journey to the Isle of Wight, and the outer air teems
with brass bands and spectators.  In full sight of whom, the
malignant star of the Analytical has pre-ordained that pain and
ridicule shall befall him.  For he, standing on the doorsteps to
grace the departure, is suddenly caught a most prodigious thump
on the side of his head with a heavy shoe, which a Buffer in the
hall, champagne-flushed and wild of aim, has borrowed on the
spur of the moment from the pastrycook's porter, to cast after the
departing pair as an auspicious omen.

So they all go up again into the gorgeous drawing-rooms--all of
them flushed with breakfast, as having taken scarlatina sociably--
and there the combined unknowns do malignant things with their
legs to ottomans, and take as much as possible out of the splendid
furniture.  And so, Lady Tippins, quite undetermined whether
today is the day before yesterday, or the day after to-morrow, or the
week after next, fades away; and Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene
fade away, and Twemlow fades away, and the stoney aunt goes
away--she declines to fade, proving rock to the last--and even the
unknowns are slowly strained off, and it is all over.

All over, that is to say, for the time being.  But, there is another
time to come, and it comes in about a fortnight, and it comes to Mr
and Mrs Lammle on the sands at Shanklin, in the Isle of Wight.

Mr and Mrs Lammle have walked for some time on the Shanklin
sands, and one may see by their footprints that they have not
walked arm in arm, and that they have not walked in a straight
track, and that they have walked in a moody humour; for, the lady
has prodded little spirting holes in the damp sand before her with
her parasol, and the gentleman has trailed his stick after him.  As if
he were of the Mephistopheles family indeed, and had walked with
a drooping tail.

'Do you mean to tell me, then, Sophronia--'

Thus he begins after a long silence, when Sophronia flashes
fiercely, and turns upon him.

'Don't put it upon ME, sir.  I ask you, do YOU mean to tell me?'

Mr Lammle falls silent again, and they walk as before.  Mrs
Lammle opens her nostrils and bites her under-lip; Mr Lammle
takes his gingerous whiskers in his left hand, and, bringing them
together, frowns furtively at his beloved, out of a thick gingerous
bush.

'Do I mean to say!' Mrs Lammle after a time repeats, with
indignation.  'Putting it on me!  The unmanly disingenuousness!'

Mr Lammle stops, releases his whiskers, and looks at her.  'The
what?'

Mrs Lammle haughtily replies, without stopping, and without
looking back.  'The meanness.'

He is at her side again in a pace or two, and he retorts, 'That is not
what you said.  You said disingenuousness.'

'What if I did?'

'There is no "if" in the case.  You did.'

'I did, then.  And what of it?'

'What of it?' says Mr Lammle.  'Have you the face to utter the word
to me?'

'The face, too!' replied Mrs Lammle, staring at him with cold
scorn.  'Pray, how dare you, sir, utter the word to me?'

'I never did.'

As this happens to be true, Mrs Lammle is thrown on the feminine
resource of saying, 'I don't care what you uttered or did not utter.'

After a little more walking and a little more silence, Mr Lammle
breaks the latter.

'You shall proceed in your own way.  You claim a right to ask me
do I mean to tell you.  Do I mean to tell you what?'

'That you are a man of property?'

'No.'

'Then you married me on false pretences?'

'So be it.  Next comes what you mean to say.  Do you mean to say
you are a woman of property?'

'No.'

'Then you married me on false pretences.'

'If you were so dull a fortune-hunter that you deceived yourself, or
if you were so greedy and grasping that you were over-willing to
be deceived by appearances, is it my fault, you adventurer?' the
lady demands, with great asperity.

'I asked Veneering, and he told me you were rich.'

'Veneering!' with great contempt.'  And what does Veneering know
about me!'

'Was he not your trustee?'

'No.  I have no trustee, but the one you saw on the day when you
fraudulently married me.  And his trust is not a very difficult one,
for it is only an annuity of a hundred and fifteen pounds.  I think
there are some odd shillings or pence, if you are very particular.'

Mr Lammle bestows a by no means loving look upon the partner of
his joys and sorrows, and he mutters something; but checks
himself.

'Question for question.  It is my turn again, Mrs Lammle.  What
made you suppose me a man of property?'

'You made me suppose you so.  Perhaps you will deny that you
always presented yourself to me in that character?'

'But you asked somebody, too.  Come, Mrs Lammle, admission for
admission.  You asked somebody?'

'I asked Veneering.'

'And Veneering knew as much of me as he knew of you, or as
anybody knows of him.'

After more silent walking, the bride stops short, to say in a
passionate manner:

'I never will forgive the Veneerings for this!'

'Neither will I,' returns the bridegroom.

With that, they walk again; she, making those angry spirts in the
sand; he, dragging that dejected tail.  The tide is low, and seems to
have thrown them together high on the bare shore.  A gull comes
sweeping by their heads and flouts them.  There was a golden
surface on the brown cliffs but now, and behold they are only damp
earth.  A taunting roar comes from the sea, and the far-out rollers
mount upon one another, to look at the entrapped impostors, and to
join in impish and exultant gambols.

'Do you pretend to believe,' Mrs Lammle resumes, sternly, 'when
you talk of my marrying you for worldly advantages, that it was
within the bounds of reasonable probability that I would have
married you for yourself?'

'Again there are two sides to the question, Mrs Lammle.  What do
you pretend to believe?'

'So you first deceive me and then insult me!' cries the lady, with a
heaving bosom.

'Not at all.  I have originated nothing.  The double-edged question
was yours.'

'Was mine!' the bride repeats, and her parasol breaks in her angry
hand.

His colour has turned to a livid white, and ominous marks have
come to light about his nose, as if the finger of the very devil
himself had, within the last few moments, touched it here and
there.  But he has repressive power, and she has none.

'Throw it away,' he coolly recommends as to the parasol; 'you have
made it useless; you look ridiculous with it.'

Whereupon she calls him in her rage, 'A deliberate villain,' and so
casts the broken thing from her as that it strikes him in falling.
The finger-marks are something whiter for the instant, but he
walks on at her side.

She bursts into tears, declaring herself the wretchedest, the most
deceived, the worst-used, of women.  Then she says that if she had
the courage to kill herself, she would do it.  Then she calls him vile
impostor.  Then she asks him, why, in the disappointment of his
base speculation, he does not take her life with his own hand,
under the present favourable circumstances.  Then she cries again.
Then she is enraged again, and makes some mention of swindlers.
Finally, she sits down crying on a block of stone, and is in all the
known and unknown humours of her sex at once.  Pending her
changes, those aforesaid marks in his face have come and gone,
now here now there, like white steps of a pipe on which the
diabolical performer has played a tune.  Also his livid lips are
parted at last, as if he were breathless with running.  Yet he is not.

'Now, get up, Mrs Lammle, and let us speak reasonably.'

She sits upon her stone, and takes no heed of him.

'Get up, I tell you.'

Raising her head, she looks contemptuously in his face, and
repeats, 'You tell me!  Tell me, forsooth!'

She affects not to know that his eyes are fastened on her as she
droops her head again; but her whole figure reveals that she knows
it uneasily.

'Enough of this.  Come!  Do you hear?  Get up.'

Yielding to his hand, she rises, and they walk again; but this time
with their faces turned towards their place of residence.

'Mrs Lammle, we have both been deceiving, and we have both
been deceived.  We have both been biting, and we have both been
bitten.  In a nut-shell, there's the state of the case.'

'You sought me out--'

'Tut!  Let us have done with that.  WE know very well how it was.
Why should you and I talk about it, when you and I can't disguise
it?  To proceed.  I am disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'Am I no one?'

'Some one--and I was coming to you, if you had waited a moment.
You, too, are disappointed and cut a poor figure.'

'An injured figure!'

'You are now cool enough, Sophronia, to see that you can't be
injured without my being equally injured; and that therefore the
mere word is not to the purpose.  When I look back, I wonder how
I can have been such a fool as to take you to so great an extent
upon trust.'

'And when I look back--' the bride cries, interrupting.

'And when you look back, you wonder how you can have been--
you'll excuse the word?'

'Most certainly, with so much reason.

'--Such a fool as to take ME to so great an extent upon trust.  But
the folly is committed on both sides.  I cannot get rid of you; you
cannot get rid of me.  What follows?'

'Shame and misery,' the bride bitterly replies.

'I don't know.  A mutual understanding follows, and I think it may
carry us through.  Here I split my discourse (give me your arm,
Sophronia), into three heads, to make it shorter and plainer.
Firstly, it's enough to have been done, without the mortification of
being known to have been done.  So we agree to keep the fact to
ourselves.  You agree?'

'If it is possible, I do.'

'Possible! We have pretended well enough to one another.  Can't
we, united, pretend to the world?  Agreed.  Secondly, we owe the
Veneerings a grudge, and we owe all other people the grudge of
wishing them to be taken in, as we ourselves have been taken in.
Agreed?'

'Yes.  Agreed.'

'We come smoothly to thirdly.  You have called me an adventurer,
Sophronia.  So I am.  In plain uncomplimentary English, so I am.
So are you, my dear.  So are many people.  We agree to keep our
own secret, and to work together in furtherance of our own
schemes.'

'What schemes?'

'Any scheme that will bring us money.  By our own schemes, I
mean our joint interest.  Agreed?'

She answers, after a little hesitation, 'I suppose so.  Agreed.'

'Carried at once, you see!  Now, Sophronia, only half a dozen
words more.  We know one another perfectly.  Don't be tempted
into twitting me with the past knowledge that you have of me,
because it is identical with the past knowledge that I have of you,
and in twitting me, you twit yourself, and I don't want to hear you
do it.  With this good understanding established between us, it is
better never done.  To wind up all:--You have shown temper today,
Sophronia.  Don't be betrayed into doing so again, because I have a
Devil of a temper myself.'

So, the happy pair, with this hopeful marriage contract thus signed,
sealed, and delivered, repair homeward.  If, when those infernal
finger-marks were on the white and breathless countenance of
Alfred Lammle, Esquire, they denoted that he conceived the
purpose of subduing his dear wife Mrs Alfred Lammle, by at once
divesting her of any lingering reality or pretence of self-respect,
the purpose would seem to have been presently executed.  The
mature young lady has mighty little need of powder, now, for her
downcast face, as he escorts her in the light of the setting sun to
their abode of bliss.



Chapter 11

PODSNAPPERY


Mr Podsnap was well to do, and stood very high in Mr Podsnap's
opinion.  Beginning with a good inheritance, he had married a
good inheritance, and had thriven exceedingly in the Marine
Insurance way, and was quite satisfied.  He never could make out
why everybody was not quite satisfied, and he felt conscious that
he set a brilliant social example in being particularly well satisfied
with most things, and, above all other things, with himself.

Thus happily acquainted with his own merit and importance, Mr
Podsnap settled that whatever he put behind him he put out of
existence.  There was a dignified conclusiveness--not to add a
grand convenience--in this way of getting rid of disagreeables
which had done much towards establishing Mr Podsnap in his
lofty place in Mr Podsnap's satisfaction.  'I don't want to know
about it; I don't choose to discuss it; I don't admit it!'  Mr Podsnap
had even acquired a peculiar flourish of his right arm in often
clearing the world of its most difficult problems, by sweeping them
behind him (and consequently sheer away) with those words and a
flushed face.  For they affronted him.

Mr Podsnap's world was not a very large world, morally; no, nor
even geographically: seeing that although his business was
sustained upon commerce with other countries, he considered other
countries, with that important reservation, a mistake, and of their
manners and customs would conclusively observe, 'Not English!'
when, PRESTO! with a flourish of the arm, and a flush of the face,
they were swept away.  Elsewhere, the world got up at eight,
shaved close at a quarter-past, breakfasted at nine, went to the City
at ten, came home at half-past five, and dined at seven.  Mr
Podsnap's notions of the Arts in their integrity might have been
stated thus.  Literature; large print, respectfully descriptive of
getting up at eight, shaving close at a quarter past, breakfasting at
nine, going to the City at ten, coming home at half-past five, and
dining at seven.  Painting and Sculpture; models and portraits
representing Professors of getting up at eight, shaving close at a
quarter past, breakfasting at nine, going to the City at ten, coming
home at half-past five, and dining at seven.  Music; a respectable
performance (without variations) on stringed and wind
instruments, sedately expressive of getting up at eight, shaving
close at a quarter past, breakfasting at nine, going to the City at
ten, coming home at half-past five, and dining at seven.  Nothing
else to be permitted to those same vagrants the Arts, on pain of
excommunication.  Nothing else To Be--anywhere!

As a so eminently respectable man, Mr Podsnap was sensible of its
being required of him to take Providence under his protection.
Consequently he always knew exactly what Providence meant.
Inferior and less respectable men might fall short of that mark, but
Mr Podsnap was always up to it.  And it was very remarkable (and
must have been very comfortable) that what Providence meant,
was invariably what Mr Podsnap meant.

These may be said to have been the articles of a faith and school
which the present chapter takes the liberty of calling, after its
representative man, Podsnappery.  They were confined within close
bounds, as Mr Podsnap's own head was confined by his shirt-
collar; and they were enunciated with a sounding pomp that
smacked of the creaking of Mr Podsnap's own boots.

There was a Miss Podsnap.  And this young rocking-horse was
being trained in her mother's art of prancing in a stately manner
without ever getting on.  But the high parental action was not yet
imparted to her, and in truth she was but an undersized damsel,
with high shoulders, low spirits, chilled elbows, and a rasped
surface of nose, who seemed to take occasional frosty peeps out of
childhood into womanhood, and to shrink back again, overcome by
her mother's head-dress and her father from head to foot--crushed
by the mere dead-weight of Podsnappery.

A certain institution in Mr Podsnap's mind which he called 'the
young person' may be considered to have been embodied in Miss
Podsnap, his daughter.  It was an inconvenient and exacting
institution, as requiring everything in the universe to be filed down
and fitted to it.  The question about everything was, would it bring
a blush into the cheek of the young person?  And the inconvenience
of the young person was, that, according to Mr Podsnap, she
seemed always liable to burst into blushes when there was no need
at all.  There appeared to be no line of demarcation between the
young person's excessive innocence, and another person's guiltiest
knowledge.  Take Mr Podsnap's word for it, and the soberest tints
of drab, white, lilac, and grey, were all flaming red to this
troublesome Bull of a young person.

The Podsnaps lived in a shady angle adjoining Portman Square.
They were a kind of people certain to dwell in the shade, wherever
they dwelt.  Miss Podsnap's life had been, from her first
appearance on this planet, altogether of a shady order; for, Mr
Podsnap's young person was likely to get little good out of
association with other young persons, and had therefore been
restricted to companionship with not very congenial older persons,
and with massive furniture.  Miss Podsnap's early views of life
being principally derived from the reflections of it in her father's
boots, and in the walnut and rosewood tables of the dim drawing-
rooms, and in their swarthy giants of looking-glasses, were of a
sombre cast; and it was not wonderful that now, when she was on
most days solemnly tooled through the Park by the side of her
mother in a great tall custard-coloured phaeton, she showed above
the apron of that vehicle like a dejected young person sitting up in
bed to take a startled look at things in general, and very strongly
desiring to get her head under the counterpane again.

Said Mr Podsnap to Mrs Podsnap, 'Georgiana is almost eighteen.'

Said Mrs Podsnap to Mr Podsnap, assenting, 'Almost eighteen.'

Said Mr Podsnap then to Mrs Podsnap, 'Really I think we should
have some people on Georgiana's birthday.'

Said Mrs Podsnap then to Mr Podsnap, 'Which will enable us to
clear off all those people who are due.'

So it came to pass that Mr and Mrs Podsnap requested the honour
of the company of seventeen friends of their souls at dinner; and
that they substituted other friends of their souls for such of the
seventeen original friends of their souls as deeply regretted that a
prior engagement prevented their having the honour of dining with
Mr and Mrs Podsnap, in pursuance of their kind invitation; and
that Mrs Podsnap said of all these inconsolable personages, as she
checked them off with a pencil in her list, 'Asked, at any rate, and
got rid of;' and that they successfully disposed of a good many
friends of their souls in this way, and felt their consciences much
lightened.

There were still other friends of their souls who were not entitled to
be asked to dinner, but had a claim to be invited to come and take
a haunch of mutton vapour-bath at half-past nine.  For the clearing
off of these worthies, Mrs Podsnap added a small and early
evening to the dinner, and looked in at the music-shop to bespeak a
well-conducted automaton to come and play quadrilles for a carpet
dance.

Mr and Mrs Veneering, and Mr and Mrs Veneering's bran-new
bride and bridegroom, were of the dinner company; but the
Podsnap establishment had nothing else in common with the
Veneerings.  Mr Podsnap could tolerate taste in a mushroom man
who stood in need of that sort of thing, but was far above it
himself.  Hideous solidity was the characteristic of the Podsnap
plate.  Everything was made to look as heavy as it could, and to
take up as much room as possible.  Everything said boastfully,
'Here you have as much of me in my ugliness as if I were only
lead; but I am so many ounces of precious metal worth so much an
ounce;--wouldn't you like to melt me down?'  A corpulent
straddling epergne, blotched all over as if it had broken out in an
eruption rather than been ornamented, delivered this address from
an unsightly silver platform in the centre of the table.  Four silver
wine-coolers, each furnished with four staring heads, each head
obtrusively carrying a big silver ring in each of its ears, conveyed
the sentiment up and down the table, and handed it on to the pot-
bellied silver salt-cellars.  All the big silver spoons and forks
widened the mouths of the company expressly for the purpose of
thrusting the sentiment down their throats with every morsel they
ate.

The majority of the guests were like the plate, and included several
heavy articles weighing ever so much.  But there was a foreign
gentleman among them: whom Mr Podsnap had invited after much
debate with himself--believing the whole European continent to be
in mortal alliance against the young person--and there was a droll
disposition, not only on the part of Mr Podsnap but of everybody
else, to treat him as if he were a child who was hard of hearing.

As a delicate concession to this unfortunately-born foreigner, Mr
Podsnap, in receiving him, had presented his wife as 'Madame
Podsnap;' also his daughter as 'Mademoiselle Podsnap,' with some
inclination to add 'ma fille,' in which bold venture, however, he
checked himself.  The Veneerings being at that time the only other
arrivals, he had added (in a condescendingly explanatory manner),
'Monsieur Vey-nair-reeng,' and had then subsided into English.

'How Do You Like London?' Mr Podsnap now inquired from his
station of host, as if he were administering something in the nature
of a powder or potion to the deaf child; 'London, Londres, London?'

The foreign gentleman admired it.

'You find it Very Large?' said Mr Podsnap, spaciously.

The foreign gentleman found it very large.

'And Very Rich?'

The foreign gentleman found it, without doubt, enormement riche.

'Enormously Rich, We say,' returned Mr Podsnap, in a
condescending manner.  'Our English adverbs do Not terminate in
Mong, and We Pronounce the "ch" as if there were a "t" before it.
We say Ritch.'

'Reetch,' remarked the foreign gentleman.

'And Do You Find, Sir,' pursued Mr Podsnap, with dignity, 'Many
Evidences that Strike You, of our British Constitution in the
Streets Of The World's Metropolis, London, Londres, London?'

The foreign gentleman begged to be pardoned, but did not
altogether understand.

'The Constitution Britannique,' Mr Podsnap explained, as if he
were teaching in an infant school.'  We Say British, But You Say
Britannique, You Know' (forgivingly, as if that were not his fault).
'The Constitution, Sir.'

The foreign gentleman said, 'Mais, yees; I know eem.'

A youngish sallowish gentleman in spectacles, with a lumpy
forehead, seated in a supplementary chair at a corner of the table,
here caused a profound sensation by saying, in a raised voice,
'ESKER,' and then stopping dead.

'Mais oui,' said the foreign gentleman, turning towards him. 'Est-ce
que?  Quoi donc?'

But the gentleman with the lumpy forehead having for the time
delivered himself of all that he found behind his lumps, spake for
the time no more.

'I Was Inquiring,' said Mr Podsnap, resuming the thread of his
discourse, 'Whether You Have Observed in our Streets as We
should say, Upon our Pavvy as You would say, any Tokens--'

The foreign gentleman, with patient courtesy entreated pardon;
'But what was tokenz?'

'Marks,' said Mr Podsnap; 'Signs, you know, Appearances--
Traces.'

'Ah!  Of a Orse?' inquired the foreign gentleman.

'We call it Horse,' said Mr Podsnap, with forbearance.  'In
England, Angleterre, England, We Aspirate the "H," and We Say
"Horse."  Only our Lower Classes Say "Orse!"'

'Pardon,' said the foreign gentleman; 'I am alwiz wrong!'

'Our Language,' said Mr Podsnap, with a gracious consciousness
of being always right, 'is Difficult.  Ours is a Copious Language,
and Trying to Strangers.  I will not Pursue my Question.'

But the lumpy gentleman, unwilling to give it up, again madly
said, 'ESKER,' and again spake no more.

'It merely referred,' Mr Podsnap explained, with a sense of
meritorious proprietorship, 'to Our Constitution, Sir.  We
Englishmen are Very Proud of our Constitution, Sir.  It Was
Bestowed Upon Us By Providence.  No Other Country is so
Favoured as This Country.'

'And ozer countries?--' the foreign gentleman was beginning, when
Mr Podsnap put him right again.

'We do not say Ozer; we say Other: the letters are "T" and "H;"
You say Tay and Aish, You Know; (still with clemency).  The
sound is "th"--"th!"'

'And OTHER countries,' said the foreign gentleman.  'They do
how?'

'They do, Sir,' returned Mr Podsnap, gravely shaking his head;
'they do--I am sorry to be obliged to say it--AS they do.'

'It was a little particular of Providence,' said the foreign gentleman,
laughing; 'for the frontier is not large.'

'Undoubtedly,' assented Mr Podsnap; 'But So it is.  It was the
Charter of the Land.  This Island was Blest, Sir, to the Direct
Exclusion of such Other Countries as--as there may happen to be.
And if we were all Englishmen present, I would say,' added Mr
Podsnap, looking round upon his compatriots, and sounding
solemnly with his theme, 'that there is in the Englishman a
combination of qualities, a modesty, an independence, a
responsibility, a repose, combined with an absence of everything
calculated to call a blush into the cheek of a young person, which
one would seek in vain among the Nations of the Earth.'

Having delivered this little summary, Mr Podsnap's face flushed,
as he thought of the remote possibility of its being at all qualified
by any prejudiced citizen of any other country; and, with his
favourite right-arm flourish, he put the rest of Europe and the
whole of Asia, Africa, and America nowhere.

The audience were much edified by this passage of words; and Mr
Podsnap, feeling that he was in rather remarkable force to-day,
became smiling and conversational.

'Has anything more been heard, Veneering,' he inquired, 'of the
lucky legatee?'

'Nothing more,' returned Veneering, 'than that he has come into
possession of the property.  I am told people now call him The
Golden Dustman.  I mentioned to you some time ago, I think, that
the young lady whose intended husband was murdered is daughter
to a clerk of mine?'

'Yes, you told me that,' said Podsnap; 'and by-the-bye, I wish you
would tell it again here, for it's a curious coincidence--curious that
the first news of the discovery should have been brought straight to
your table (when I was there), and curious that one of your people
should have been so nearly interested in it.  Just relate that, will
you?'

Veneering was more than ready to do it, for he had prospered
exceedingly upon the Harmon Murder, and had turned the social
distinction it conferred upon him to the account of making several
dozen of bran-new bosom-friends.  Indeed, such another lucky hit
would almost have set him up in that way to his satisfaction.  So,
addressing himself to the most desirable of his neighbours, while
Mrs Veneering secured the next most desirable, he plunged into
the case, and emerged from it twenty minutes afterwards with a
Bank Director in his arms.  In the mean time, Mrs Veneering had
dived into the same waters for a wealthy Ship-Broker, and had
brought him up, safe and sound, by the hair.  Then Mrs Veneering
had to relate, to a larger circle, how she had been to see the girl,
and how she was really pretty, and (considering her station)
presentable.  And this she did with such a successful display of her
eight aquiline fingers and their encircling jewels, that she happily
laid hold of a drifting General Officer, his wife and daughter, and
not only restored their animation which had become suspended,
but made them lively friends within an hour.

Although Mr Podsnap would in a general way have highly
disapproved of Bodies in rivers as ineligible topics with reference
to the cheek of the young person, he had, as one may say, a share
in this affair which made him a part proprietor.  As its returns were
immediate, too, in the way of restraining the company from
speechless contemplation of the wine-coolers, it paid, and he was
satisfied.

And now the haunch of mutton vapour-bath having received a
gamey infusion, and a few last touches of sweets and coffee, was
quite ready, and the bathers came; but not before the discreet
automaton had got behind the bars of the piano music-desk, and
there presented the appearance of a captive languishing in a rose-
wood jail.  And who now so pleasant or so well assorted as Mr and
Mrs Alfred Lammle, he all sparkle, she all gracious contentment,
both at occasional intervals exchanging looks like partners at cards
who played a game against All England.

There was not much youth among the bathers, but there was no
youth (the young person always excepted) in the articles of
Podsnappery.  Bald bathers folded their arms and talked to Mr
Podsnap on the hearthrug; sleek-whiskered bathers, with hats in
their hands, lunged at Mrs Podsnap and retreated; prowling
bathers, went about looking into ornamental boxes and bowls as if
they had suspicions of larceny on the part of the Podsnaps, and
expected to find something they had lost at the bottom; bathers of
the gentler sex sat silently comparing ivory shoulders.  All this
time and always, poor little Miss Podsnap, whose tiny efforts (if
she had made any) were swallowed up in the magnificence of her
mother's rocking, kept herself as much out of sight and mind as
she could, and appeared to be counting on many dismal returns of
the day.  It was somehow understood, as a secret article in the state
proprieties of Podsnappery that nothing must be said about the day.
Consequently this young damsel's nativity was hushed up and
looked over, as if it were agreed on all hands that it would have
been better that she had never been born.

The Lammles were so fond of the dear Veneerings that they could
not for some time detach themselves from those excellent friends;
but at length, either a very open smile on Mr Lammle's part, or a
very secret elevation of one of his gingerous eyebrows--certainly
the one or the other--seemed to say to Mrs Lammle, 'Why don't you
play?'  And so, looking about her, she saw Miss Podsnap, and
seeming to say responsively, 'That card?' and to be answered, 'Yes,'
went and sat beside Miss Podsnap.

Mrs Lammle was overjoyed to escape into a corner for a little quiet
talk.

It promised to be a very quiet talk, for Miss Podsnap replied in a
flutter, 'Oh!  Indeed, it's very kind of you, but I am afraid I DON'T
talk.'

'Let us make a beginning,' said the insinuating Mrs Lammle, with
her best smile.

'Oh!  I am afraid you'll find me very dull.  But Ma talks!'

That was plainly to be seen, for Ma was talking then at her usual
canter, with arched head and mane, opened eyes and nostrils.

'Fond of reading perhaps?'

'Yes.  At least I--don't mind that so much,' returned Miss Podsnap.

'M-m-m-m-music.  So insinuating was Mrs Lammle that she got
half a dozen ms into the word before she got it out.

'I haven't nerve to play even if I could.  Ma plays.'

(At exactly the same canter, and with a certain flourishing
appearance of doing something, Ma did, in fact, occasionally take
a rock upon the instrument.)

'Of course you like dancing?'

'Oh no, I don't,' said Miss Podsnap.

'No?  With your youth and attractions?  Truly, my dear, you
surprise me!'

'I can't say,' observed Miss Podsnap, after hesitating considerably,
and stealing several timid looks at Mrs Lammle's carefully
arranged face, 'how I might have liked it if I had been a--you won't
mention it, WILL you?'

'My dear!  Never!'

'No, I am sure you won't.  I can't say then how I should have liked
it, if I had been a chimney-sweep on May-day.'

'Gracious!' was the exclamation which amazement elicited from
Mrs Lammle.

'There!  I knew you'd wonder.  But you won't mention it, will you?'

'Upon my word, my love,' said Mrs Lammle, 'you make me ten
times more desirous, now I talk to you, to know you well than I
was when I sat over yonder looking at you.  How I wish we could
be real friends!  Try me as a real friend.  Come!  Don't fancy me a
frumpy old married woman, my dear; I was married but the other
day, you know; I am dressed as a bride now, you see.  About the
chimney-sweeps?'

'Hush!  Ma'll hear.'

'She can't hear from where she sits.'

'Don't you be too sure of that,' said Miss Podsnap, in a lower voice.
'Well, what I mean is, that they seem to enjoy it.'

'And that perhaps you would have enjoyed it, if you had been one
of them?'

Miss Podsnap nodded significantly.

'Then you don't enjoy it now?'

'How is it possible?' said Miss Podsnap.  'Oh it is such a dreadful
thing!  If I was wicked enough--and strong enough--to kill
anybody, it should be my partner.'

This was such an entirely new view of the Terpsichorean art as
socially practised, that Mrs Lammle looked at her young friend in
some astonishment.  Her young friend sat nervously twiddling her
fingers in a pinioned attitude, as if she were trying to hide her
elbows.  But this latter Utopian object (in short sleeves) always
appeared to be the great inoffensive aim of her existence.

'It sounds horrid, don't it?' said Miss Podsnap, with a penitential
face.

Mrs Lammle, not very well knowing what to answer, resolved
herself into a look of smiling encouragement.

'But it is, and it always has been,' pursued Miss Podsnap, 'such a
trial to me!  I so dread being awful.  And it is so awful!  No one
knows what I suffered at Madame Sauteuse's, where I learnt to
dance and make presentation-curtseys, and other dreadful things--
or at least where they tried to teach me.  Ma can do it.'

'At any rate, my love,' said Mrs Lammle, soothingly, 'that's over.'

'Yes, it's over,' returned Miss Podsnap, 'but there's nothing gained
by that.  It's worse here, than at Madame Sauteuse's.  Ma was
there, and Ma's here; but Pa wasn't there, and company wasn't
there, and there were not real partners there.  Oh there's Ma
speaking to the man at the piano!  Oh there's Ma going up to
somebody!  Oh I know she's going to bring him to me!  Oh please
don't, please don't, please don't!  Oh keep away, keep away, keep
away!'  These pious ejaculations Miss Podsnap uttered with her
eyes closed, and her head leaning back against the wall.

But the Ogre advanced under the pilotage of Ma, and Ma said,
'Georgiana, Mr Grompus,' and the Ogre clutched his victim and
bore her off to his castle in the top couple.  Then the discreet
automaton who had surveyed his ground, played a blossomless
tuneless 'set,' and sixteen disciples of Podsnappery went through
the figures of - 1, Getting up at eight and shaving close at a quarter
past - 2, Breakfasting at nine - 3, Going to the City at ten - 4,
Coming home at half-past five - 5, Dining at seven, and the grand
chain.

While these solemnities were in progress, Mr Alfred Lammle
(most loving of husbands) approached the chair of Mrs Alfred
Lammle (most loving of wives), and bending over the back of it,
trifled for some few seconds with Mrs Lammle's bracelet.  Slightly
in contrast with this brief airy toying, one might have noticed a
certain dark attention in Mrs Lammle's face as she said some
words with her eyes on Mr Lammle's waistcoat, and seemed in
return to receive some lesson.  But it was all done as a breath
passes from a mirror.

And now, the grand chain riveted to the last link, the discreet
automaton ceased, and the sixteen, two and two, took a walk
among the furniture.  And herein the unconsciousness of the Ogre
Grompus was pleasantly conspicuous; for, that complacent
monster, believing that he was giving Miss Podsnap a treat,
prolonged to the utmost stretch of possibility a peripatetic account
of an archery meeting; while his victim, heading the procession of
sixteen as it slowly circled about, like a revolving funeral, never
raised her eyes except once to steal a glance at Mrs Lammle,
expressive of intense despair.

At length the procession was dissolved by the violent arrival of a
nutmeg, before which the drawing-room door bounced open as if it
were a cannon-ball; and while that fragrant article, dispersed
through several glasses of coloured warm water, was going the
round of society, Miss Podsnap returned to her seat by her new
friend.

'Oh my goodness,' said Miss Podsnap.  'THAT'S over!  I hope you
didn't look at me.'

'My dear, why not?'

'Oh I know all about myself,' said Miss Podsnap.

'I'll tell you something I know about you, my dear,' returned Mrs
Lammle in her winning way, 'and that is, you are most
unnecessarily shy.'

'Ma ain't,' said Miss Podsnap.  '--I detest you!  Go along!'  This
shot was levelled under her breath at the gallant Grompus for
bestowing an insinuating smile upon her in passing.

'Pardon me if I scarcely see, my dear Miss Podsnap,' Mrs Lammle
was beginning when the young lady interposed.

'If we are going to be real friends (and I suppose we are, for you
are the only person who ever proposed it) don't let us be awful.  It's
awful enough to BE Miss Podsnap, without being called so.  Call
me Georgiana.'

'Dearest Georgiana,' Mrs Lammle began again.

'Thank you,' said Miss Podsnap.

'Dearest Georgiana, pardon me if I scarcely see, my love, why your
mamma's not being shy, is a reason why you should be.'

'Don't you really see that?' asked Miss Podsnap, plucking at her
fingers in a troubled manner, and furtively casting her eyes now on
Mrs Lammle, now on the ground.  'Then perhaps it isn't?'

'My dearest Georgiana, you defer much too readily to my poor
opinion.  Indeed it is not even an opinion, darling, for it is only a
confession of my dullness.'

'Oh YOU are not dull,' returned Miss Podsnap. 'I am dull, but you
couldn't have made me talk if you were.'

Some little touch of conscience answering this perception of her
having gained a purpose, called bloom enough into Mrs Lammle's
face to make it look brighter as she sat smiling her best smile on
her dear Georgiana, and shaking her head with an affectionate
playfulness.  Not that it meant anything, but that Georgiana
seemed to like it.

'What I mean is,' pursued Georgiana, 'that Ma being so endowed
with awfulness, and Pa being so endowed with awfulness, and
there being so much awfulness everywhere--I mean, at least,
everywhere where I am--perhaps it makes me who am so deficient
in awfulness, and frightened at it--I say it very badly--I don't know
whether you can understand what I mean?'

'Perfectly, dearest Georgiana!' Mrs Lammle was proceeding with
every reassuring wile, when the head of that young lady suddenly
went back against the wall again and her eyes closed.

'Oh there's Ma being awful with somebody with a glass in his eye!
Oh I know she's going to bring him here!  Oh don't bring him,
don't bring him!  Oh he'll be my partner with his glass in his eye!
Oh what shall I do!'  This time Georgiana accompanied her
ejaculations with taps of her feet upon the floor, and was altogether
in quite a desperate condition.  But, there was no escape from the
majestic Mrs Podsnap's production of an ambling stranger, with
one eye screwed up into extinction and the other framed and
glazed, who, having looked down out of that organ, as if he
descried Miss Podsnap at the bottom of some perpendicular shaft,
brought her to the surface, and ambled off with her.  And then the
captive at the piano played another 'set,' expressive of his mournful
aspirations after freedom, and other sixteen went through the
former melancholy motions, and the ambler took Miss Podsnap for
a furniture walk, as if he had struck out an entirely original
conception.

In the mean time a stray personage of a meek demeanour, who had
wandered to the hearthrug and got among the heads of tribes
assembled there in conference with Mr Podsnap, eliminated Mr
Podsnap's flush and flourish by a highly unpolite remark; no less
than a reference to the circumstance that some half-dozen people
had lately died in the streets, of starvation.  It was clearly ill-timed
after dinner.  It was not adapted to the cheek of the young person.
It was not in good taste.

'I don't believe it,' said Mr Podsnap, putting it behind him.

The meek man was afraid we must take it as proved, because there
were the Inquests and the Registrar's returns.

'Then it was their own fault,' said Mr Podsnap.

Veneering and other elders of tribes commended this way out of it.
At once a short cut and a broad road.

The man of meek demeanour intimated that truly it would seem
from the facts, as if starvation had been forced upon the culprits in
question--as if, in their wretched manner, they had made their
weak protests against it--as if they would have taken the liberty of
staving it off if they could--as if they would rather not have been
starved upon the whole, if perfectly agreeable to all parties.

'There is not,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing angrily, 'there is not a
country in the world, sir, where so noble a provision is made for
the poor as in this country.'

The meek man was quite willing to concede that, but perhaps it
rendered the matter even worse, as showing that there must be
something appallingly wrong somewhere.

'Where?' said Mr Podsnap.

The meek man hinted Wouldn't it be well to try, very seriously, to
find out where?

'Ah!' said Mr Podsnap.  'Easy to say somewhere; not so easy to say
where!  But I see what you are driving at.  I knew it from the first.
Centralization.  No.  Never with my consent.  Not English.'

An approving murmur arose from the heads of tribes; as saying,
'There you have him!  Hold him!'

He was not aware (the meek man submitted of himself) that he
was driving at any ization.  He had no favourite ization that he
knew of.  But he certainly was more staggered by these terrible
occurrences than he was by names, of howsoever so many
syllables.  Might he ask, was dying of destitution and neglect
necessarily English?

'You know what the population of London is, I suppose,' said Mr
Podsnap.

The meek man supposed he did, but supposed that had absolutely
nothing to do with it, if its laws were well administered.

'And you know; at least I hope you know;' said Mr Podsnap, with
severity, 'that Providence has declared that you shall have the poor
always with you?'

The meek man also hoped he knew that.

'I am glad to hear it,' said Mr Podsnap with a portentous air.  'I am
glad to hear it.  It will render you cautious how you fly in the face
of Providence.'

In reference to that absurd and irreverent conventional phrase, the
meek man said, for which Mr Podsnap was not responsible, he the
meek man had no fear of doing anything so impossible; but--

But Mr Podsnap felt that the time had come for flushing and
flourishing this meek man down for good.  So he said:

'I must decline to pursue this painful discussion.  It is not pleasant
to my feelings; it is repugnant to my feelings.  I have said that I do
not admit these things.  I have also said that if they do occur (not
that I admit it), the fault lies with the sufferers themselves.  It is not
for ME'--Mr Podsnap pointed 'me' forcibly, as adding by
implication though it may be all very well for YOU--'it is not for
me to impugn the workings of Providence.  I know better than that,
I trust, and I have mentioned what the intentions of Providence are.
Besides,' said Mr Podsnap, flushing high up among his hair-
brushes, with a strong consciousness of personal affront, 'the
subject is a very disagreeable one.  I will go so far as to say it is an
odious one.  It is not one to be introduced among our wives and
young persons, and I--'  He finished with that flourish of his arm
which added more expressively than any words, And I remove it
from the face of the earth.

Simultaneously with this quenching of the meek man's ineffectual
fire; Georgiana having left the ambler up a lane of sofa, in a No
Thoroughfare of back drawing-room, to find his own way out,
came back to Mrs Lammle.  And who should be with Mrs
Lammle, but Mr Lammle.  So fond of her!

'Alfred, my love, here is my friend.  Georgiana, dearest girl, you
must like my husband next to me.

Mr Lammle was proud to be so soon distinguished by this special
commendation to Miss Podsnap's favour.  But if Mr Lammle were
prone to be jealous of his dear Sophronia's friendships, he would
be jealous of her feeling towards Miss Podsnap.

'Say Georgiana, darling,' interposed his wife.

'Towards--shall I?--Georgiana.'  Mr Lammle uttered the name,
with a delicate curve of his right hand, from his lips outward.  'For
never have I known Sophronia (who is not apt to take sudden
likings) so attracted and so captivated as she is by--shall I once
more?--Georgiana.'

The object of this homage sat uneasily enough in receipt of it, and
then said, turning to Mrs Lammle, much embarrassed:

'I wonder what you like me for!  I am sure I can't think.'

'Dearest Georgiana, for yourself.  For your difference from all
around you.'

'Well!  That may be.  For I think I like you for your difference from
all around me,' said Georgiana with a smile of relief.

'We must be going with the rest,' observed Mrs Lammle, rising
with a show of unwillingness, amidst a general dispersal.  'We are
real friends, Georgiana dear?'

'Real.'

'Good night, dear girl!'

She had established an attraction over the shrinking nature upon
which her smiling eyes were fixed, for Georgiana held her hand
while she answered in a secret and half-frightened tone:

'Don't forget me when you are gone away.  And come again soon.
Good night!'

Charming to see Mr and Mrs Lammle taking leave so gracefully,
and going down the stairs so lovingly and sweetly.  Not quite so
charming to see their smiling faces fall and brood as they dropped
moodily into separate corners of their little carriage.  But to be sure
that was a sight behind the scenes, which nobody saw, and which
nobody was meant to see.

Certain big, heavy vehicles, built on the model of the Podsnap
plate, took away the heavy articles of guests weighing ever so
much; and the less valuable articles got away after their various
manners; and the Podsnap plate was put to bed.  As Mr Podsnap
stood with his back to the drawing-room fire, pulling up his
shirtcollar, like a veritable cock of the walk literally pluming
himself in the midst of his possessions, nothing would have
astonished him more than an intimation that Miss Podsnap, or any
other young person properly born and bred, could not be exactly
put away like the plate, brought out like the plate, polished like the
plate, counted, weighed, and valued like the plate.  That such a
young person could possibly have a morbid vacancy in the heart for
anything younger than the plate, or less monotonous than the plate;
or that such a young person's thoughts could try to scale the region
bounded on the north, south, east, and west, by the plate; was a
monstrous imagination which he would on the spot have flourished
into space.  This perhaps in some sort arose from Mr Podsnap's
blushing young person being, so to speak, all cheek; whereas there
is a possibility that there may be young persons of a rather more
complex organization.

If Mr Podsnap, pulling up his shirt-collar, could only have heard
himself called 'that fellow' in a certain short dialogue, which
passed between Mr and Mrs Lammle in their opposite corners of
their little carriage, rolling home!

'Sophronia, are you awake?'

'Am I likely to be asleep, sir?'

'Very likely, I should think, after that fellow's company.  Attend to
what I am going to say.'

'I have attended to what you have already said, have I not?  What
else have I been doing all to-night.'

'Attend, I tell you,' (in a raised voice) 'to what I am going to say.
Keep close to that idiot girl.  Keep her under your thumb.  You
have her fast, and you are not to let her go.  Do you hear?'

'I hear you.'

'I foresee there is money to be made out of this, besides taking that
fellow down a peg.  We owe each other money, you know.'

Mrs Lammle winced a little at the reminder, but only enough to
shake her scents and essences anew into the atmosphere of the
little carriage, as she settled herself afresh in her own dark corner.



Chapter 12

THE SWEAT OF AN HONEST MAN'S BROW


Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn took a coffee-
house dinner together in Mr Lightwood's office.  They had newly
agreed to set up a joint establishment together.  They had taken a
bachelor cottage near Hampton, on the brink of the Thames, with a
lawn, and a boat-house; and all things fitting, and were to float
with the stream through the summer and the Long Vacation.

It was not summer yet, but spring; and it was not gentle spring
ethereally mild, as in Thomson's Seasons, but nipping spring with
an easterly wind, as in Johnson's, Jackson's, Dickson's, Smith's,
and Jones's Seasons.  The grating wind sawed rather than blew;
and as it sawed, the sawdust whirled about the sawpit.  Every
street was a sawpit, and there were no top-sawyers; every
passenger was an under-sawyer, with the sawdust blinding him
and choking him.

That mysterious paper currency which circulates in London when
the wind blows, gyrated here and there and everywhere.  Whence
can it come, whither can it go?  It hangs on every bush, flutters in
every tree, is caught flying by the electric wires, haunts every
enclosure, drinks at every pump, cowers at every grating, shudders
upon every plot of grass, seeks rest in vain behind the legions of
iron rails.  In Paris, where nothing is wasted, costly and luxurious
city though it be, but where wonderful human ants creep out of
holes and pick up every scrap, there is no such thing.  There, it
blows nothing but dust.  There, sharp eyes and sharp stomachs
reap even the east wind, and get something out of it.

The wind sawed, and the sawdust whirled.  The shrubs wrung
their many hands, bemoaning that they had been over-persuaded
by the sun to bud; the young leaves pined; the sparrows repented of
their early marriages, like men and women; the colours of the
rainbow were discernible, not in floral spring, but in the faces of
the people whom it nibbled and pinched.  And ever the wind
sawed, and the sawdust whirled.

When the spring evenings are too long and light to shut out, and
such weather is rife, the city which Mr Podsnap so explanatorily
called London, Londres, London, is at its worst.  Such a black
shrill city, combining the qualities of a smoky house and a
scolding wife; such a gritty city; such a hopeless city, with no rent
in the leaden canopy of its sky; such a beleaguered city, invested by
the great Marsh Forces of Essex and Kent.  So the two old
schoolfellows felt it to be, as, their dinner done, they turned
towards the fire to smoke.  Young Blight was gone, the coffee-
house waiter was gone, the plates and dishes were gone, the wine
was going--but not in the same direction.

'The wind sounds up here,' quoth Eugene, stirring the fire, 'as if we
were keeping a lighthouse.  I wish we were.'

'Don't you think it would bore us?' Lightwood asked.

'Not more than any other place.  And there would be no Circuit to
go.  But that's a selfish consideration, personal to me.'

'And no clients to come,' added Lightwood.  'Not that that's a
selfish consideration at all personal to ME.'

'If we were on an isolated rock in a stormy sea,' said Eugene,
smoking with his eyes on the fire, 'Lady Tippins couldn't put off to
visit us, or, better still, might put off and get swamped.  People
couldn't ask one to wedding breakfasts.  There would be no
Precedents to hammer at, except the plain-sailing Precedent of
keeping the light up.  It would be exciting to look out for wrecks.'

'But otherwise,' suggested Lightwood, 'there might be a degree of
sameness in the life.'

'I have thought of that also,' said Eugene, as if he really had been
considering the subject in its various bearings with an eye to the
business; 'but it would be a defined and limited monotony.  It
would not extend beyond two people.  Now, it's a question with
me, Mortimer, whether a monotony defined with that precision and
limited to that extent, might not be more endurable than the
unlimited monotony of one's fellow-creatures.'

As Lightwood laughed and passed the wine, he remarked, 'We
shall have an opportunity, in our boating summer, of trying the
question.'

'An imperfect one,' Eugene acquiesced, with a sigh, 'but so we
shall.  I hope we may not prove too much for one another.'

'Now, regarding your respected father,' said Lightwood, bringing
him to a subject they had expressly appointed to discuss: always
the most slippery eel of eels of subjects to lay hold of.

'Yes, regarding my respected father,' assented Eugene, settling
himself in his arm-chair.  'I would rather have approached my
respected father by candlelight, as a theme requiring a little
artificial brilliancy; but we will take him by twilight, enlivened
with a glow of Wallsend.'

He stirred the fire again as he spoke, and having made it blaze,
resumed.

'My respected father has found, down in the parental
neighbourhood, a wife for his not-generally-respected son.'

'With some money, of course?'

'With some money, of course, or he would not have found her.  My
respected father--let me shorten the dutiful tautology by
substituting in future M. R. F., which sounds military, and rather
like the Duke of Wellington.'

'What an absurd fellow you are, Eugene!'

'Not at all, I assure you.  M. R. F. having always in the clearest
manner provided (as he calls it) for his children by pre-arranging
from the hour of the birth of each, and sometimes from an earlier
period, what the devoted little victim's calling and course in life
should be, M. R. F. pre-arranged for myself that I was to be the
barrister I am (with the slight addition of an enormous practice,
which has not accrued), and also the married man I am not.'

'The first you have often told me.'

'The first I have often told you.  Considering myself sufficiently
incongruous on my legal eminence, I have until now suppressed
my domestic destiny.  You know M. R. F., but not as well as I do.
If you knew him as well as I do, he would amuse you.'

'Filially spoken, Eugene!'

'Perfectly so, believe me; and with every sentiment of affectionate
deference towards M. R. F.  But if he amuses me, I can't help it.
When my eldest brother was born, of course the rest of us knew (I
mean the rest of us would have known, if we had been in
existence) that he was heir to the Family Embarrassments--we call
it before the company the Family Estate.  But when my second
brother was going to be born by-and-by, "this," says M. R. F., "is a
little pillar of the church."  WAS born, and became a pillar of the
church; a very shaky one.  My third brother appeared, considerably
in advance of his engagement to my mother; but M. R. F., not at all
put out by surprise, instantly declared him a Circumnavigator.
Was pitch-forked into the Navy, but has not circumnavigated.  I
announced myself and was disposed of with the highly satisfactory
results embodied before you.  When my younger brother was half
an hour old, it was settled by M. R. F. that he should have a
mechanical genius.  And so on.  Therefore I say that M. R. F.
amuses me.'

'Touching the lady, Eugene.'

'There M. R. F. ceases to be amusing, because my intentions are
opposed to touching the lady.'

'Do you know her?'

'Not in the least.'

'Hadn't you better see her?'

'My dear Mortimer, you have studied my character.  Could I
possibly go down there, labelled "ELIGIBLE.  ON VIEW," and
meet the lady, similarly labelled?  Anything to carry out M. R. F.'s
arrangements, I am sure, with the greatest pleasure--except
matrimony.  Could I possibly support it?  I, so soon bored, so
constantly, so fatally?'

'But you are not a consistent fellow, Eugene.'

'In susceptibility to boredom,' returned that worthy, 'I assure you I
am the most consistent of mankind.'

'Why, it was but now that you were dwelling in the advantages of a
monotony of two.'

'In a lighthouse.  Do me the justice to remember the condition.  In
a lighthouse.'

Mortimer laughed again, and Eugene, having laughed too for the
first time, as if he found himself on reflection rather entertaining,
relapsed into his usual gloom, and drowsily said, as he enjoyed his
cigar, 'No, there is no help for it; one of the prophetic deliveries of
M. R. F. must for ever remain unfulfilled.  With every disposition
to oblige him, he must submit to a failure.'

It had grown darker as they talked, and the wind was sawing and
the sawdust was whirling outside paler windows.  The underlying
churchyard was already settling into deep dim shade, and the
shade was creeping up to the housetops among which they sat.  'As
if,' said Eugene, 'as if the churchyard ghosts were rising.'

He had walked to the window with his cigar in his mouth, to exalt
its flavour by comparing the fireside with the outside, when he
stopped midway on his return to his arm-chair, and said:

'Apparently one of the ghosts has lost its way, and dropped in to be
directed.  Look at this phantom!'

Lightwood, whose back was towards the door, turned his head,
and there, in the darkness of the entry, stood a something in the
likeness of a man: to whom he addressed the not irrelevant inquiry,
'Who the devil are you?'

'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, in a hoarse
double-barrelled whisper, 'but might either on you be Lawyer
Lightwood?'

'What do you mean by not knocking at the door?' demanded
Mortimer.

'I ask your pardons, Governors,' replied the ghost, as before, 'but
probable you was not aware your door stood open.'

'What do you want?'

Hereunto the ghost again hoarsely replied, in its double-barrelled
manner, 'I ask your pardons, Governors, but might one on you be
Lawyer Lightwood?'

'One of us is,' said the owner of that name.

'All right, Governors Both,' returned the ghost, carefully closing the
room door; ''tickler business.'

Mortimer lighted the candles.  They showed the visitor to be an ill-
looking visitor with a squinting leer, who, as he spoke, fumbled at
an old sodden fur cap, formless and mangey, that looked like a
furry animal, dog or cat, puppy or kitten, drowned and decaying.

'Now,' said Mortimer, 'what is it?'

'Governors Both,' returned the man, in what he meant to be a
wheedling tone, 'which on you might be Lawyer Lightwood?'

'I am.'

'Lawyer Lightwood,' ducking at him with a servile air, 'I am a man
as gets my living, and as seeks to get my living, by the sweat of my
brow.  Not to risk being done out of the sweat of my brow, by any
chances, I should wish afore going further to be swore in.'

'I am not a swearer in of people, man.'

The visitor, clearly anything but reliant on this assurance, doggedly
muttered 'Alfred David.'

'Is that your name?' asked Lightwood.

'My name?' returned the man.  'No; I want to take a Alfred David.'

(Which Eugene, smoking and contemplating him, interpreted as
meaning Affidavit.)

'I tell you, my good fellow,' said Lightwood, with his indolent
laugh, 'that I have nothing to do with swearing.'

'He can swear AT you,' Eugene explained; 'and so can I.  But we
can't do more for you.'

Much discomfited by this information, the visitor turned the
drowned dog or cat, puppy or kitten, about and about, and looked
from one of the Governors Both to the other of the Governors Both,
while he deeply considered within himself.  At length he decided:

'Then I must be took down.'

'Where?' asked Lightwood.

'Here,' said the man.  'In pen and ink.'

'First, let us know what your business is about.'

'It's about,' said the man, taking a step forward, dropping his
hoarse voice, and shading it with his hand, 'it's about from five to
ten thousand pound reward.  That's what it's about.  It's about
Murder.  That's what it's about.'

'Come nearer the table.  Sit down.  Will you have a glass of wine?'

'Yes, I will,' said the man; 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.'

It was given him.  Making a stiff arm to the elbow, he poured the
wine into his mouth, tilted it into his right cheek, as saying, 'What
do you think of it?' tilted it into his left cheek, as saying, 'What do
YOU think of it?' jerked it into his stomach, as saying, 'What do
YOU think of it?'  To conclude, smacked his lips, as if all three
replied, 'We think well of it.'

'Will you have another?'

'Yes, I will,' he repeated, 'and I don't deceive you, Governors.'  And
also repeated the other proceedings.

'Now,' began Lightwood, 'what's your name?'

'Why, there you're rather fast, Lawyer Lightwood,' he replied, in a
remonstrant manner.  'Don't you see, Lawyer Lightwood?  There
you're a little bit fast.  I'm going to earn from five to ten thousand
pound by the sweat of my brow; and as a poor man doing justice to
the sweat of my brow, is it likely I can afford to part with so much
as my name without its being took down?'

Deferring to the man's sense of the binding powers of pen and ink
and paper, Lightwood nodded acceptance of Eugene's nodded
proposal to take those spells in hand.  Eugene, bringing them to the
table, sat down as clerk or notary.

'Now,' said Lightwood, 'what's your name?'

But further precaution was still due to the sweat of this honest
fellow's brow.

'I should wish, Lawyer Lightwood,' he stipulated, 'to have that
T'other Governor as my witness that what I said I said.
Consequent, will the T'other Governor be so good as chuck me his
name and where he lives?'

Eugene, cigar in mouth and pen in hand, tossed him his card.
After spelling it out slowly, the man made it into a little roll, and
tied it up in an end of his neckerchief still more slowly.

'Now,' said Lightwood, for the third time, 'if you have quite
completed your various preparations, my friend, and have fully
ascertained that your spirits are cool and not in any way hurried,
what's your name?'

'Roger Riderhood.'

'Dwelling-place?'

'Lime'us Hole.'

'Calling or occupation?'

Not quite so glib with this answer as with the previous two, Mr
Riderhood gave in the definition, 'Waterside character.'

'Anything against you?' Eugene quietly put in, as he wrote.

Rather baulked, Mr Riderhood evasively remarked, with an
innocent air, that he believed the T'other Governor had asked him
summa't.

'Ever in trouble?' said Eugene.

'Once.' (Might happen to any man, Mr Riderhood added
incidentally.)

'On suspicion of--'

'Of seaman's pocket,' said Mr Riderhood.  'Whereby I was in
reality the man's best friend, and tried to take care of him.'

'With the sweat of your brow?' asked Eugene.

'Till it poured down like rain,' said Roger Riderhood.

Eugene leaned back in his chair, and smoked with his eyes
negligently turned on the informer, and his pen ready to reduce him
to more writing.  Lightwood also smoked, with his eyes
negligently turned on the informer.

'Now let me be took down again,' said Riderhood, when he had
turned the drowned cap over and under, and had brushed it the
wrong way (if it had a right way) with his sleeve.  'I give
information that the man that done the Harmon Murder is Gaffer
Hexam, the man that found the body.  The hand of Jesse Hexam,
commonly called Gaffer on the river and along shore, is the hand
that done that deed.  His hand and no other.'

The two friends glanced at one another with more serious faces
than they had shown yet.

'Tell us on what grounds you make this accusation,' said Mortimer
Lightwood.

'On the grounds,' answered Riderhood, wiping his face with his
sleeve, 'that I was Gaffer's pardner, and suspected of him many a
long day and many a dark night.  On the grounds that I knowed his
ways.  On the grounds that I broke the pardnership because I see
the danger; which I warn you his daughter may tell you another
story about that, for anythink I can say, but you know what it'll be
worth, for she'd tell you lies, the world round and the heavens
broad, to save her father.  On the grounds that it's well understood
along the cause'ays and the stairs that he done it.  On the grounds
that he's fell off from, because he done it.  On the grounds that I
will swear he done it.  On the grounds that you may take me where
you will, and get me sworn to it.  I don't want to back out of the
consequences.  I have made up MY mind.  Take me anywheres.'

'All this is nothing,' said Lightwood.

'Nothing?' repeated Riderhood, indignantly and amazedly.

'Merely nothing.  It goes to no more than that you suspect this man
of the crime.  You may do so with some reason, or you may do so
with no reason, but he cannot be convicted on your suspicion.'

'Haven't I said--I appeal to the T'other Governor as my witness--
haven't I said from the first minute that I opened my mouth in this
here world-without-end-everlasting chair' (he evidently used that
form of words as next in force to an affidavit), 'that I was willing to
swear that he done it?  Haven't I said, Take me and get me sworn
to it?  Don't I say so now?  You won't deny it, Lawyer Lightwood?'

'Surely not; but you only offer to swear to your suspicion, and I tell
you it is not enough to swear to your suspicion.'

'Not enough, ain't it, Lawyer Lightwood?' he cautiously demanded.

'Positively not.'

'And did I say it WAS enough?  Now, I appeal to the T'other
Governor.  Now, fair!   Did I say so?'

'He certainly has not said that he had no more to tell,' Eugene
observed in a low voice without looking at him, 'whatever he
seemed to imply.'

'Hah!' cried the informer, triumphantly perceiving that the remark
was generally in his favour, though apparently not closely
understanding it.  'Fort'nate for me I had a witness!'

'Go on, then,' said Lightwood.  'Say out what you have to say.  No
after-thought.'

'Let me be took down then!' cried the informer, eagerly and
anxiously.  'Let me be took down, for by George and the Draggin
I'm a coming to it now!  Don't do nothing to keep back from a
honest man the fruits of the sweat of his brow!  I give information,
then, that he told me that he done it.  Is THAT enough?'

'Take care what you say, my friend,' returned Mortimer.

'Lawyer Lightwood, take care, you, what I say; for I judge you'll be
answerable for follering it up!'  Then, slowly and emphatically
beating it all out with his open right hand on the palm of his left;
'I, Roger Riderhood, Lime'us Hole, Waterside character, tell you,
Lawyer Lightwood, that the man Jesse Hexam, commonly called
upon the river and along-shore Gaffer, told me that he done the
deed.  What's more, he told me with his own lips that he done the
deed.  What's more, he said that he done the deed.  And I'll swear it!'

'Where did he tell you so?'

'Outside,' replied Riderhood, always beating it out, with his head
determinedly set askew, and his eyes watchfully dividing their
attention between his two auditors, 'outside the door of the Six
Jolly Fellowships, towards a quarter after twelve o'clock at
midnight--but I will not in my conscience undertake to swear to so
fine a matter as five minutes--on the night when he picked up the
body.  The Six Jolly Fellowships won't run away.  If it turns out
that he warn't at the Six Jolly Fellowships that night at midnight,
I'm a liar.'

'What did he say?'

'I'll tell you (take me down, T'other Governor, I ask no better).  He
come out first; I come out last.  I might be a minute arter him; I
might be half a minute, I might be a quarter of a minute; I cannot
swear to that, and therefore I won't.  That's knowing the
obligations of a Alfred David, ain't it?'

'Go on.'

'I found him a waiting to speak to me.  He says to me, "Rogue
Riderhood"--for that's the name I'm mostly called by--not for any
meaning in it, for meaning it has none, but because of its being
similar to Roger.'

'Never mind that.'

''Scuse ME, Lawyer Lightwood, it's a part of the truth, and as such
I do mind it, and I must mind it and I will mind it.  "Rogue
Riderhood," he says, "words passed betwixt us on the river
tonight."  Which they had; ask his daughter!  "I threatened you,"
he says, "to chop you over the fingers with my boat's stretcher, or
take a aim at your brains with my boathook.  I did so on accounts
of your looking too hard at what I had in tow, as if you was
suspicious, and on accounts of your holding on to the gunwale of
my boat."  I says to him, "Gaffer, I know it."  He says to me,
"Rogue Riderhood, you are a man in a dozen"--I think he said in a
score, but of that I am not positive, so take the lowest figure, for
precious be the obligations of a Alfred David.  "And," he says,
"when your fellow-men is up, be it their lives or be it their watches,
sharp is ever the word with you.  Had you suspicions?"  I says,
"Gaffer, I had; and what's more, I have."  He falls a shaking, and
he says, "Of what?"  I says, "Of foul play."  He falls a shaking
worse, and he says, "There WAS foul play then.  I done it for his
money.  Don't betray me!"  Those were the words as ever he used.'

There was a silence, broken only by the fall of the ashes in the
grate.  An opportunity which the informer improved by smearing
himself all over the head and neck and face with his drowned cap,
and not at all improving his own appearance.

'What more?' asked Lightwood.

'Of him, d'ye mean, Lawyer Lightwood?'

'Of anything to the purpose.'

'Now, I'm blest if I understand you, Governors Both,' said the
informer, in a creeping manner: propitiating both, though only one
had spoken.  'What?  Ain't THAT enough?'

'Did you ask him how he did it, where he did it, when he did it?'

'Far be it from me, Lawyer Lightwood!  I was so troubled in my
mind, that I wouldn't have knowed more, no, not for the sum as I
expect to earn from you by the sweat of my brow, twice told!  I had
put an end to the pardnership.  I had cut the connexion.  I couldn't
undo what was done; and when he begs and prays, "Old pardner,
on my knees, don't split upon me!"  I only makes answer "Never
speak another word to Roger Riderhood, nor look him in the face!"
and I shuns that man.'

Having given these words a swing to make them mount the higher
and go the further, Rogue Riderhood poured himself out another
glass of wine unbidden, and seemed to chew it, as, with the half-
emptied glass in his hand, he stared at the candles.

Mortimer glanced at Eugene, but Eugene sat glowering at his
paper, and would give him no responsive glance.  Mortimer again
turned to the informer, to whom he said:

'You have been troubled in your mind a long time, man?'

Giving his wine a final chew, and swallowing it, the informer
answered in a single word:

'Hages!'

'When all that stir was made, when the Government reward was
offered, when the police were on the alert, when the whole country
rang with the crime!' said Mortimer, impatiently.

'Hah!' Mr Riderhood very slowly and hoarsely chimed in, with
several retrospective nods of his head.  'Warn't I troubled in my
mind then!'

'When conjecture ran wild, when the most extravagant suspicions
were afloat, when half a dozen innocent people might have been
laid by the heels any hour in the day!' said Mortimer, almost
warming.

'Hah!' Mr Riderhood chimed in, as before.  'Warn't I troubled in my
mind through it all!'

'But he hadn't,' said Eugene, drawing a lady's head upon his
writing-paper, and touching it at intervals, 'the opportunity then of
earning so much money, you see.'

'The T'other Governor hits the nail, Lawyer Lightwood!  It was
that as turned me.  I had many times and again struggled to relieve
myself of the trouble on my mind, but I couldn't get it off.  I had
once very nigh got it off to Miss Abbey Potterson which keeps the
Six Jolly Fellowships--there is the 'ouse, it won't run away,--there
lives the lady, she ain't likely to be struck dead afore you get there--
ask her!--but I couldn't do it.  At last, out comes the new bill with
your own lawful name, Lawyer Lightwood, printed to it, and then I
asks the question of my own intellects, Am I to have this trouble
on my mind for ever?  Am I never to throw it off?  Am I always to
think more of Gaffer than of my own self?  If he's got a daughter,
ain't I got a daughter?'

'And echo answered--?' Eugene suggested.

'"You have,"' said Mr Riderhood, in a firm tone.

'Incidentally mentioning, at the same time, her age?' inquired
Eugene.

'Yes, governor.  Two-and-twenty last October.  And then I put it to
myself, "Regarding the money.  It is a pot of money."  For it IS a
pot,' said Mr Riderhood, with candour, 'and why deny it?'

'Hear!' from Eugene as he touched his drawing.

'"It is a pot of money; but is it a sin for a labouring man that
moistens every crust of bread he earns, with his tears--or if not
with them, with the colds he catches in his head--is it a sin for that
man to earn it?  Say there is anything again earning it."  This I put
to myself strong, as in duty bound; "how can it be said without
blaming Lawyer Lightwood for offering it to be earned?"  And was
it for ME to blame Lawyer Lightwood?  No.'

'No,' said Eugene.

'Certainly not, Governor,' Mr Riderhood acquiesced.  'So I made up
my mind to get my trouble off my mind, and to earn by the sweat
of my brow what was held out to me.  And what's more, he added,
suddenly turning bloodthirsty, 'I mean to have it!  And now I tell
you, once and away, Lawyer Lightwood, that Jesse Hexam,
commonly called Gaffer, his hand and no other, done the deed, on
his own confession to me.  And I give him up to you, and I want
him took.  This night!'

After another silence, broken only by the fall of the ashes in the
grate, which attracted the informer's attention as if it were the
chinking of money, Mortimer Lightwood leaned over his friend,
and said in a whisper:

'I suppose I must go with this fellow to our imperturbable friend at
the police-station.'

'I suppose,' said Eugene, 'there is no help for it.'

'Do you believe him?'

'I believe him to be a thorough rascal.  But he may tell the truth, for
his own purpose, and for this occasion only.'

'It doesn't look like it.'

'HE doesn't,' said Eugene.  'But neither is his late partner, whom he
denounces, a prepossessing person.  The firm are cut-throat
Shepherds both, in appearance.  I should like to ask him one thing.'

The subject of this conference sat leering at the ashes, trying with
all his might to overhear what was said, but feigning abstraction as
the 'Governors Both' glanced at him.

'You mentioned (twice, I think) a daughter of this Hexam's,' said
Eugene, aloud.  'You don't mean to imply that she had any guilty
knowledge of the crime?'

The honest man, after considering--perhaps considering how his
answer might affect the fruits of the sweat of his brow--replied,
unreservedly, 'No, I don't.'

'And you implicate no other person?'

'It ain't what I implicate, it's what Gaffer implicated,' was the
dogged and determined answer.  'I don't pretend to know more
than that his words to me was, "I done it."  Those was his words.'

'I must see this out, Mortimer,' whispered Eugene, rising.  'How
shall we go?'

'Let us walk,' whispered Lightwood, 'and give this fellow time to
think of it.'

Having exchanged the question and answer, they prepared
themselves for going out, and Mr Riderhood rose.  While
extinguishing the candles, Lightwood, quite as a matter of course
took up the glass from which that honest gentleman had drunk,
and coolly tossed it under the grate, where it fell shivering into
fragments.

'Now, if you will take the lead,' said Lightwood, 'Mr Wrayburn and
I will follow.  You know where to go, I suppose?'

'I suppose I do, Lawyer Lightwood.'

'Take the lead, then.'

The waterside character pulled his drowned cap over his ears with
both hands, and making himself more round-shouldered than
nature had made him, by the sullen and persistent slouch with
which he went, went down the stairs, round by the Temple
Church, across the Temple into Whitefriars, and so on by the
waterside streets.

'Look at his hang-dog air,' said Lightwood, following.

'It strikes me rather as a hang-MAN air,' returned Eugene.  'He has
undeniable intentions that way.'

They said little else as they followed.  He went on before them as
an ugly Fate might have done, and they kept him in view, and
would have been glad enough to lose sight of him.  But on he went
before them, always at the same distance, and the same rate.
Aslant against the hard implacable weather and the rough wind, he
was no more to be driven back than hurried forward, but held on
like an advancing Destiny.  There came, when they were about
midway on their journey, a heavy rush of hail, which in a few
minutes pelted the streets clear, and whitened them.  It made no
difference to him.  A man's life being to be taken and the price of it
got, the hailstones to arrest the purpose must lie larger and deeper
than those.  He crashed through them, leaving marks in the fast-
melting slush that were mere shapeless holes; one might have
fancied, following, that the very fashion of humanity had departed
from his feet.

The blast went by, and the moon contended with the fast-flying
clouds, and the wild disorder reigning up there made the pitiful
little tumults in the streets of no account.  It was not that the wind
swept all the brawlers into places of shelter, as it had swept the
hail still lingering in heaps wherever there was refuge for it; but
that it seemed as if the streets were absorbed by the sky, and the
night were all in the air.

'If he has had time to think of it,' said Eugene, he has not had time
to think better of it--or differently of it, if that's better.  There is no
sign of drawing back in him; and as I recollect this place, we must
be close upon the corner where we alighted that night.'

In fact, a few abrupt turns brought them to the river side, where
they had slipped about among the stones, and where they now
slipped more; the wind coming against them in slants and flaws,
across the tide and the windings of the river, in a furious way.
With that habit of getting under the lee of any shelter which
waterside characters acquire, the waterside character at present in
question led the way to the leeside of the Six Jolly Fellowship
Porters before he spoke.

'Look round here, Lawyer Lightwood, at them red curtains.  It's
the Fellowships, the 'ouse as I told you wouldn't run away.  And
has it run away?'

Not showing himself much impressed by this remarkable
confirmation of the informer's evidence, Lightwood inquired what
other business they had there?

'I wished you to see the Fellowships for yourself, Lawyer
Lightwood, that you might judge whether I'm a liar; and now I'll
see Gaffer's window for myself, that we may know whether he's at
home.'

With that, he crept away.

'He'll come back, I suppose?' murmured Lightwood.

'Ay! and go through with it,' murmured Eugene.

He came back after a very short interval indeed.

'Gaffer's out, and his boat's out.  His daughter's at home, sitting a-
looking at the fire.  But there's some supper getting ready, so
Gaffer's expected.  I can find what move he's upon, easy enough,
presently.'

Then he beckoned and led the way again, and they came to the
police-station, still as clean and cool and steady as before, saving
that the flame of its lamp--being but a lamp-flame, and only
attached to the Force as an outsider--flickered in the wind.

Also, within doors, Mr Inspector was at his studies as of yore.  He
recognized the friends the instant they reappeared, but their
reappearance had no effect on his composure.  Not even the
circumstance that Riderhood was their conductor moved him,
otherwise than that as he took a dip of ink he seemed, by a
settlement of his chin in his stock, to propound to that personage,
without looking at him, the question, 'What have YOU been up to,
last?'

Mortimer Lightwood asked him, would he be so good as look at
those notes?  Handing him Eugene's.

Having read the first few lines, Mr Inspector mounted to that (for
him) extraordinary pitch of emotion that he said, 'Does either of
you two gentlemen happen to have a pinch of snuff about him?'
Finding that neither had, he did quite as well without it, and read
on.

'Have you heard these read?' he then demanded of the honest man.

'No,' said Riderhood.

'Then you had better hear them.'  And so read them aloud, in an
official manner.

'Are these notes correct, now, as to the information you bring here
and the evidence you mean to give?' he asked, when he had
finished reading.

'They are.  They are as correct,' returned Mr Riderhood, 'as I am.  I
can't say more than that for 'em.'

'I'll take this man myself, sir,' said Mr Inspector to Lightwood.
Then to Riderhood, 'Is he at home?  Where is he?  What's he
doing?  You have made it your business to know all about him, no
doubt.'

Riderhood said what he did know, and promised to find out in a
few minutes what he didn't know.

'Stop,' said Mr Inspector; 'not till I tell you: We mustn't look like
business.  Would you two gentlemen object to making a pretence
of taking a glass of something in my company at the Fellowships?
Well-conducted house, and highly respectable landlady.'

They replied that they would be happy to substitute a reality for
the pretence, which, in the main, appeared to be as one with Mr
Inspector's meaning.

'Very good,' said he, taking his hat from its peg, and putting a pair
of handcuffs in his pocket as if they were his gloves.  'Reserve!'
Reserve saluted.  'You know where to find me?'  Reserve again
saluted.  'Riderhood, when you have found out concerning his
coming home, come round to the window of Cosy, tap twice at it,
and wait for me.  Now, gentlemen.'

As the three went out together, and Riderhood slouched off from
under the trembling lamp his separate way, Lightwood asked the
officer what he thought of this?

Mr Inspector replied, with due generality and reticence, that it was
always more likely that a man had done a bad thing than that he
hadn't.  That he himself had several times 'reckoned up' Gaffer, but
had never been able to bring him to a satisfactory criminal total.
That if this story was true, it was only in part true.  That the two
men, very shy characters, would have been jointly and pretty
equally 'in it;' but that this man had 'spotted' the other, to save
himself and get the money.

'And I think,' added Mr Inspector, in conclusion, 'that if all goes
well with him, he's in a tolerable way of getting it.  But as this is
the Fellowships, gentlemen, where the lights are, I recommend
dropping the subject.  You can't do better than be interested in
some lime works anywhere down about Northfleet, and doubtful
whether some of your lime don't get into bad company as it comes
up in barges.'

'You hear Eugene?' said Lightwood, over his shoulder.  'You are
deeply interested in lime.'

'Without lime,' returned that unmoved barrister-at-law, 'my
existence would be unilluminated by a ray of hope.'



Chapter 13

TRACKING THE BIRD OF PREY


The two lime merchants, with their escort, entered the dominions
of Miss Abbey Potterson, to whom their escort (presenting them
and their pretended business over the half-door of the bar, in a
confidential way) preferred his figurative request that 'a mouthful
of fire' might be lighted in Cosy.  Always well disposed to assist
the constituted authorities, Miss Abbey bade Bob Gliddery attend
the gentlemen to that retreat, and promptly enliven it with fire and
gaslight.  Of this commission the bare-armed Bob, leading the way
with a flaming wisp of paper, so speedily acquitted himself, that
Cosy seemed to leap out of a dark sleep and embrace them warmly,
the moment they passed the lintels of its hospitable door.

'They burn sherry very well here,' said Mr Inspector, as a piece of
local intelligence.  'Perhaps you gentlemen might like a bottle?'

The answer being By all means, Bob Gliddery received his
instructions from Mr Inspector, and departed in a becoming state
of alacrity engendered by reverence for the majesty of the law.

'It's a certain fact,' said Mr Inspector, 'that this man we have
received our information from,' indicating Riderhood with his
thumb over his shoulder, 'has for some time past given the other
man a bad name arising out of your lime barges, and that the other
man has been avoided in consequence.  I don't say what it means
or proves, but it's a certain fact.  I had it first from one of the
opposite sex of my acquaintance,' vaguely indicating Miss Abbey
with his thumb over his shoulder, 'down away at a distance, over
yonder.'

Then probably Mr Inspector was not quite unprepared for their
visit that evening? Lightwood hinted.

'Well you see,' said Mr Inspector, 'it was a question of making a
move.  It's of no use moving if you don't know what your move is.
You had better by far keep still.  In the matter of this lime, I
certainly had an idea that it might lie betwixt the two men; I
always had that idea.  Still I was forced to wait for a start, and I
wasn't so lucky as to get a start.  This man that we have received
our information from, has got a start, and if he don't meet with a
check he may make the running and come in first.  There may turn
out to be something considerable for him that comes in second, and
I don't mention who may or who may not try for that place.  There's
duty to do, and I shall do it, under any circumstances; to the best of
my judgment and ability.'

'Speaking as a shipper of lime--' began Eugene.

'Which no man has a better right to do than yourself, you know,'
said Mr Inspector.

'I hope not,' said Eugene; 'my father having been a shipper of lime
before me, and my grandfather before him--in fact we having been
a family immersed to the crowns of our heads in lime during
several generations--I beg to observe that if this missing lime
could be got hold of without any young female relative of any
distinguished gentleman engaged in the lime trade (which I cherish
next to my life) being present, I think it might be a more agreeable
proceeding to the assisting bystanders, that is to say, lime-burners.'

'I also,' said Lightwood, pushing his friend aside with a laugh,
'should much prefer that.'

'It shall be done, gentlemen, if it can be done conveniently,' said
Mr Inspector, with coolness.  'There is no wish on my part to cause
any distress in that quarter.  Indeed, I am sorry for that quarter.'

'There was a boy in that quarter,' remarked Eugene.  'He is still
there?'

'No,' said Mr Inspector.'  He has quitted those works.  He is
otherwise disposed of.'

'Will she be left alone then?' asked Eugene.

'She will be left,' said Mr Inspector, 'alone.'

Bob's reappearance with a steaming jug broke off the conversation.
But although the jug steamed forth a delicious perfume, its
contents had not received that last happy touch which the
surpassing finish of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters imparted on
such momentous occasions.  Bob carried in his left hand one of
those iron models of sugar-loaf hats, before mentioned, into which
he emptied the jug, and the pointed end of which he thrust deep
down into the fire, so leaving it for a few moments while he
disappeared and reappeared with three bright drinking-glasses.
Placing these on the table and bending over the fire, meritoriously
sensible of the trying nature of his duty, he watched the wreaths of
steam, until at the special instant of projection he caught up the
iron vessel and gave it one delicate twirl, causing it to send forth
one gentle hiss.  Then he restored the contents to the jug; held over
the steam of the jug, each of the three bright glasses in succession;
finally filled them all, and with a clear conscience awaited the
applause of his fellow-creatures.

It was bestowed (Mr Inspector having proposed as an appropriate
sentiment 'The lime trade!') and Bob withdrew to report the
commendations of the guests to Miss Abbey in the bar.  It may be
here in confidence admitted that, the room being close shut in his
absence, there had not appeared to be the slightest reason for the
elaborate maintenance of this same lime fiction.  Only it had been
regarded by Mr Inspector as so uncommonly satisfactory, and so
fraught with mysterious virtues, that neither of his clients had
presumed to question it.

Two taps were now heard on the outside of the window.  Mr
Inspector, hastily fortifying himself with another glass, strolled out
with a noiseless foot and an unoccupied countenance.  As one
might go to survey the weather and the general aspect of the
heavenly bodies.

'This is becoming grim, Mortimer,' said Eugene, in a low voice.  'I
don't like this.'

'Nor I' said Lightwood.  'Shall we go?'

'Being here, let us stay.  You ought to see it out, and I won't leave
you.  Besides, that lonely girl with the dark hair runs in my head.
It was little more than a glimpse we had of her that last time, and
yet I almost see her waiting by the fire to-night.  Do you feel like a
dark combination of traitor and pickpocket when you think of that
girl?'

'Rather,' returned Lightwood.  'Do you?'

'Very much so.'

Their escort strolled back again, and reported.  Divested of its
various lime-lights and shadows, his report went to the effect that
Gaffer was away in his boat, supposed to be on his old look-out;
that he had been expected last high-water; that having missed it for
some reason or other, he was not, according to his usual habits at
night, to be counted on before next high-water, or it might be an
hour or so later; that his daughter, surveyed through the window,
would seem to be so expecting him, for the supper was not
cooking, but set out ready to be cooked; that it would be high-
water at about one, and that it was now barely ten; that there was
nothing to be done but watch and wait; that the informer was
keeping watch at the instant of that present reporting, but that two
heads were better than one (especially when the second was Mr
Inspector's); and that the reporter meant to share the watch.  And
forasmuch as crouching under the lee of a hauled-up boat on a
night when it blew cold and strong, and when the weather was
varied with blasts of hail at times, might be wearisome to
amateurs, the reporter closed with the recommendation that the
two gentlemen should remain, for a while at any rate, in their
present quarters, which were weather-tight and warm.

They were not inclined to dispute this recommendation, but they
wanted to know where they could join the watchers when so
disposed.  Rather than trust to a verbal description of the place,
which might mislead, Eugene (with a less weighty sense of
personal trouble on him than he usually had) would go out with Mr
Inspector, note the spot, and come back.

On the shelving bank of the river, among the slimy stones of a
causeway--not the special causeway of the Six Jolly Fellowships,
which had a landing-place of its own, but another, a little removed,
and very near to the old windmill which was the denounced man's
dwelling-place--were a few boats; some, moored and already
beginning to float; others, hauled up above the reach of the tide.
Under one of these latter, Eugene's companion disappeared.  And
when Eugene had observed its position with reference to the other
boats, and had made sure that he could not miss it, he turned his
eyes upon the building where, as he had been told, the lonely girl
with the dark hair sat by the fire.

He could see the light of the fire shining through the window.
Perhaps it drew him on to look in.  Perhaps he had come out with
the express intention.  That part of the bank having rank grass
growing on it, there was no difficulty in getting close, without any
noise of footsteps: it was but to scramble up a ragged face of pretty
hard mud some three or four feet high and come upon the grass
and to the window.  He came to the window by that means.

She had no other light than the light of the fire.  The unkindled
lamp stood on the table.  She sat on the ground, looking at the
brazier, with her face leaning on her hand.  There was a kind of
film or flicker on her face, which at first he took to be the fitful
firelight; but, on a second look, he saw that she was weeping.  A
sad and solitary spectacle, as shown him by the rising and the
falling of the fire.

It was a little window of but four pieces of glass, and was not
curtained; he chose it because the larger window near it was.  It
showed him the room, and the bills upon the wall respecting the
drowned people starting out and receding by turns.  But he glanced
slightly at them, though he looked long and steadily at her.  A deep
rich piece of colour, with the brown flush of her cheek and the
shining lustre of her hair, though sad and solitary, weeping by the
rising and the falling of the fire.

She started up.  He had been so very still that he felt sure it was not
he who had disturbed her, so merely withdrew from the window
and stood near it in the shadow of the wall.  She opened the door,
and said in an alarmed tone, 'Father, was that you calling me?'
And again, 'Father!'  And once again, after listening, 'Father!  I
thought I heard you call me twice before!'

No response.  As she re-entered at the door, he dropped over the
bank and made his way back, among the ooze and near the hiding-
place, to Mortimer Lightwood: to whom he told what he had seen
of the girl, and how this was becoming very grim indeed.

'If the real man feels as guilty as I do,' said Eugene, 'he is
remarkably uncomfortable.'

'Influence of secrecy,' suggested Lightwood.

'I am not at all obliged to it for making me Guy Fawkes in the
vault and a Sneak in the area both at once,' said Eugene.  'Give me
some more of that stuff.'

Lightwood helped him to some more of that stuff, but it had been
cooling, and didn't answer now.

'Pooh,' said Eugene, spitting it out among the ashes.  'Tastes like
the wash of the river.'

'Are you so familiar with the flavour of the wash of the river?'

'I seem to be to-night.  I feel as if I had been half drowned, and
swallowing a gallon of it.'

'Influence of locality,' suggested Lightwood.

'You are mighty learned to-night, you and your influences,'
returned Eugene.  'How long shall we stay here?'

'How long do you think?'

'If I could choose, I should say a minute,' replied Eugene, 'for the
Jolly Fellowship Porters are not the jolliest dogs I have known.
But I suppose we are best here until they turn us out with the other
suspicious characters, at midnight.'

Thereupon he stirred the fire, and sat down on one side of it.  It
struck eleven, and he made believe to compose himself patiently.
But gradually he took the fidgets in one leg, and then in the other
leg, and then in one arm, and then in the other arm, and then in his
chin, and then in his back, and then in his forehead, and then in his
hair, and then in his nose; and then he stretched himself recumbent
on two chairs, and groaned; and then he started up.

'Invisible insects of diabolical activity swarm in this place.  I am
tickled and twitched all over.  Mentally, I have now committed a
burglary under the meanest circumstances, and the myrmidons of
justice are at my heels.'

'I am quite as bad,' said Lightwood, sitting up facing him, with a
tumbled head; after going through some wonderful evolutions, in
which his head had been the lowest part of him.  'This
restlessness began with me, long ago.  All the time you were out, I
felt like Gulliver with the Lilliputians firing upon him.'

'It won't do, Mortimer.  We must get into the air; we must join our
dear friend and brother, Riderhood.  And let us tranquillize
ourselves by making a compact.  Next time (with a view to our
peace of mind) we'll commit the crime, instead of taking the
criminal.  You swear it?'

'Certainly.'

'Sworn!  Let Tippins look to it.  Her life's in danger.'

Mortimer rang the bell to pay the score, and Bob appeared to
transact that business with him: whom Eugene, in his careless
extravagance, asked if he would like a situation in the lime-trade?

'Thankee sir, no sir,' said Bob.  'I've a good sitiwation here, sir.'

'If you change your mind at any time,' returned Eugene, 'come to
me at my works, and you'll always find an opening in the lime-
kiln.'

'Thankee sir,' said Bob.

'This is my partner,' said Eugene, 'who keeps the books and attends
to the wages.  A fair day's wages for a fair day's work is ever my
partner's motto.'

'And a very good 'un it is, gentlemen,' said Bob, receiving his fee,
and drawing a bow out of his head with his right hand, very much
as he would have drawn a pint of beer out of the beer engine.

'Eugene,' Mortimer apostrophized him, laughing quite heartily
when they were alone again, 'how CAN you be so ridiculous?'

'I am in a ridiculous humour,' quoth Eugene; 'I am a ridiculous
fellow.  Everything is ridiculous.  Come along!'

It passed into Mortimer Lightwood's mind that a change of some
sort, best expressed perhaps as an intensification of all that was
wildest and most negligent and reckless in his friend, had come
upon him in the last half-hour or so.  Thoroughly used to him as he
was, he found something new and strained in him that was for the
moment perplexing.  This passed into his mind, and passed out
again; but he remembered it afterwards.

'There's where she sits, you see,' said Eugene, when they were
standing under the bank, roared and riven at by the wind.  'There's
the light of her fire.'

'I'll take a peep through the window,' said Mortimer.

'No, don't!'  Eugene caught him by the arm.  'Best, not make a
show of her.  Come to our honest friend.'

He led him to the post of watch, and they both dropped down and
crept under the lee of the boat; a better shelter than it had seemed
before, being directly contrasted with the blowing wind and the
bare night.

'Mr Inspector at home?' whispered Eugene.

'Here I am, sir.'

'And our friend of the perspiring brow is at the far corner there?
Good.  Anything happened?'

'His daughter has been out, thinking she heard him calling, unless
it was a sign to him to keep out of the way.  It might have been.'

'It might have been Rule Britannia,' muttered Eugene, 'but it
wasn't.  Mortimer!'

'Here!' (On the other side of Mr Inspector.)

'Two burglaries now, and a forgery!'

With this indication of his depressed state of mind, Eugene fell
silent.

They were all silent for a long while.  As it got to be flood-tide,
and the water came nearer to them, noises on the river became
more frequent, and they listened more.  To the turning of steam-
paddles, to the clinking of iron chain, to the creaking of blocks, to
the measured working of oars, to the occasional violent barking of
some passing dog on shipboard, who seemed to scent them lying
in their hiding-place.  The night was not so dark but that, besides
the lights at bows and mastheads gliding to and fro, they could
discern some shadowy bulk attached; and now and then a ghostly
lighter with a large dark sail, like a warning arm, would start up
very near them, pass on, and vanish.  At this time of their watch,
the water close to them would be often agitated by some impulsion
given it from a distance.  Often they believed this beat and plash to
be the boat they lay in wait for, running in ashore; and again and
again they would have started up, but for the immobility with
which the informer, well used to the river, kept quiet in his place.

The wind carried away the striking of the great multitude of city
church clocks, for those lay to leeward of them; but there were
bells to windward that told them of its being One--Two--Three.
Without that aid they would have known how the night wore, by
the falling of the tide, recorded in the appearance of an ever-
widening black wet strip of shore, and the emergence of the paved
causeway from the river, foot by foot.

As the time so passed, this slinking business became a more and
more precarious one.  It would seem as if the man had had some
intimation of what was in hand against him, or had taken fright?
His movements might have been planned to gain for him, in
getting beyond their reach, twelve hours' advantage?  The honest
man who had expended the sweat of his brow became uneasy, and
began to complain with bitterness of the proneness of mankind to
cheat him--him invested with the dignity of Labour!

Their retreat was so chosen that while they could watch the river,
they could watch the house.  No one had passed in or out, since the
daughter thought she heard the father calling.  No one could pass
in or out without being seen.

'But it will be light at five,' said Mr Inspector, 'and then WE shall
be seen.'

'Look here,' said Riderhood, 'what do you say to this?  He may
have been lurking in and out, and just holding his own betwixt two
or three bridges, for hours back.'

'What do you make of that?' said Mr Inspector.  Stoical, but
contradictory.

'He may be doing so at this present time.'

'What do you make of that?' said Mr Inspector.

'My boat's among them boats here at the cause'ay.'

'And what do you make of your boat?' said Mr Inspector.

'What if I put off in her and take a look round?  I know his ways,
and the likely nooks he favours.  I know where he'd be at such a
time of the tide, and where he'd be at such another time.  Ain't I
been his pardner?  None of you need show.  None of you need stir.
I can shove her off without help; and as to me being seen, I'm
about at all times.'

'You might have given a worse opinion,' said Mr Inspector, after
brief consideration.  'Try it.'

'Stop a bit.  Let's work it out.  If I want you, I'll drop round under
the Fellowships and tip you a whistle.'

'If I might so far presume as to offer a suggestion to my honourable
and gallant friend, whose knowledge of naval matters far be it
from me to impeach,' Eugene struck in with great deliberation, 'it
would be, that to tip a whistle is to advertise mystery and invite
speculation.  My honourable and gallant friend will, I trust, excuse
me, as an independent member, for throwing out a remark which I
feel to be due to this house and the country.'

'Was that the T'other Governor, or Lawyer Lightwood?' asked
Riderhood.  For, they spoke as they crouched or lay, without seeing
one another's faces.

'In reply to the question put by my honourable and gallant friend,'
said Eugene, who was lying on his back with his hat on his face,
as an attitude highly expressive of watchfulness, 'I can have no
hesitation in replying (it not being inconsistent with the public
service) that those accents were the accents of the T'other
Governor.'

'You've tolerable good eyes, ain't you, Governor?  You've all
tolerable good eyes, ain't you?' demanded the informer.

All.

'Then if I row up under the Fellowship and lay there, no need to
whistle.  You'll make out that there's a speck of something or
another there, and you'll know it's me, and you'll come down that
cause'ay to me.  Understood all?'

Understood all.

'Off she goes then!'

In a moment, with the wind cutting keenly at him sideways, he
was staggering down to his boat; in a few moments he was clear,
and creeping up the river under their own shore.

Eugene had raised himself on his elbow to look into the darkness
after him.  'I wish the boat of my honourable and gallant friend,' he
murmured, lying down again and speaking into his hat, 'may be
endowed with philanthropy enough to turn bottom-upward and
extinguish him!--Mortimer.'

'My honourable friend.'

'Three burglaries, two forgeries, and a midnight assassination.'
Yet in spite of having those weights on his conscience, Eugene
was somewhat enlivened by the late slight change in the
circumstances of affairs.  So were his two companions.  Its being a
change was everything.  The suspense seemed to have taken a new
lease, and to have begun afresh from a recent date.  There was
something additional to look for.  They were all three more sharply
on the alert, and less deadened by the miserable influences of the
place and time.

More than an hour had passed, and they were even dozing, when
one of the three--each said it was he, and he had NOT dozed--
made out Riderhood in his boat at the spot agreed on.  They sprang
up, came out from their shelter, and went down to him.  When he
saw them coming, he dropped alongside the causeway; so that
they, standing on the causeway, could speak with him in whispers,
under the shadowy mass of the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters fast
asleep.

'Blest if I can make it out!' said he, staring at them.

'Make what out?  Have you seen him?'

'No.'

'What HAVE you seen?' asked Lightwood.  For, he was staring at
them in the strangest way.

'I've seen his boat.'

'Not empty?'

'Yes, empty.  And what's more,--adrift.  And what's more,--with
one scull gone.  And what's more,--with t'other scull jammed in the
thowels and broke short off.  And what's more,--the boat's drove
tight by the tide 'atwixt two tiers of barges.  And what's more,--he's
in luck again, by George if he ain't!'



Chapter 14

THE BIRD OF PREY BROUGHT DOWN


Cold on the shore, in the raw cold of that leaden crisis in the four-
and-twenty hours when the vital force of all the noblest and
prettiest things that live is at its lowest, the three watchers looked
each at the blank faces of the other two, and all at the blank face of
Riderhood in his boat.

'Gaffer's boat, Gaffer in luck again, and yet no Gaffer!'  So spake
Riderhood, staring disconsolate.

As if with one accord, they all turned their eyes towards the light
of the fire shining through the window.  It was fainter and duller.
Perhaps fire, like the higher animal and vegetable life it helps to
sustain, has its greatest tendency towards death, when the night is
dying and the day is not yet born.

'If it was me that had the law of this here job in hand,' growled
Riderhood with a threatening shake of his head, 'blest if I wouldn't
lay hold of HER, at any rate!'

'Ay, but it is not you,' said Eugene.  With something so suddenly
fierce in him that the informer returned submissively; 'Well, well,
well, t'other governor, I didn't say it was.  A man may speak.'

'And vermin may be silent,' said Eugene.  'Hold your tongue, you
water-rat!'

Astonished by his friend's unusual heat, Lightwood stared too, and
then said: 'What can have become of this man?'

'Can't imagine.  Unless he dived overboard.'  The informer wiped
his brow ruefully as he said it, sitting in his boat and always
staring disconsolate.

'Did you make his boat fast?'

'She's fast enough till the tide runs back.  I couldn't make her faster
than she is.  Come aboard of mine, and see for your own-selves.'

There was a little backwardness in complying, for the freight
looked too much for the boat; but on Riderhood's protesting 'that he
had had half a dozen, dead and alive, in her afore now, and she
was nothing deep in the water nor down in the stern even then, to
speak of;' they carefully took their places, and trimmed the crazy
thing.  While they were doing so, Riderhood still sat staring
disconsolate.

'All right.  Give way!' said Lightwood.

'Give way, by George!' repeated Riderhood, before shoving off.  'If
he's gone and made off any how Lawyer Lightwood, it's enough to
make me give way in a different manner.  But he always WAS a
cheat, con-found him!  He always was a infernal cheat, was Gaffer.
Nothing straightfor'ard, nothing on the square.  So mean, so
underhanded.  Never going through with a thing, nor carrying it
out like a man!'

'Hallo!  Steady!' cried Eugene (he had recovered immediately on
embarking), as they bumped heavily against a pile; and then in a
lower voice reversed his late apostrophe by remarking ('I wish the
boat of my honourable and gallant friend may be endowed with
philanthropy enough not to turn bottom-upward and extinguish
us!)  Steady, steady!  Sit close, Mortimer.  Here's the hail again.
See how it flies, like a troop of wild cats, at Mr Riderhood's eyes!'

Indeed he had the full benefit of it, and it so mauled him, though
he bent his head low and tried to present nothing but the mangy
cap to it, that he dropped under the lee of a tier of shipping, and
they lay there until it was over.  The squall had come up, like a
spiteful messenger before the morning; there followed in its wake a
ragged tear of light which ripped the dark clouds until they showed
a great grey hole of day.

They were all shivering, and everything about them seemed to be
shivering; the river itself; craft, rigging, sails, such early smoke as
there yet was on the shore.  Black with wet, and altered to the eye
by white patches of hail and sleet, the huddled buildings looked
lower than usual, as if they were cowering, and had shrunk with
the cold.  Very little life was to be seen on either bank, windows
and doors were shut, and the staring black and white letters upon
wharves and warehouses 'looked,' said Eugene to Mortimer, 'like
inscriptions over the graves of dead businesses.'

As they glided slowly on, keeping under the shore and sneaking in
and out among the shipping by back-alleys of water, in a pilfering
way that seemed to be their boatman's normal manner of
progression, all the objects among which they crept were so huge
in contrast with their wretched boat, as to threaten to crush it.  Not
a ship's hull, with its rusty iron links of cable run out of hawse-
holes long discoloured with the iron's rusty tears, but seemed to be
there with a fell intention.  Not a figure-head but had the menacing
look of bursting forward to run them down.  Not a sluice gate, or a
painted scale upon a post or wall, showing the depth of water, but
seemed to hint, like the dreadfully facetious Wolf in bed in
Grandmamma's cottage, 'That's to drown YOU in, my dears!'  Not
a lumbering black barge, with its cracked and blistered side
impending over them, but seemed to suck at the river with a thirst
for sucking them under.  And everything so vaunted the spoiling
influences of water--discoloured copper, rotten wood, honey-
combed stone, green dank deposit--that the after-consequences of
being crushed, sucked under, and drawn down, looked as ugly to
the imagination as the main event.

Some half-hour of this work, and Riderhood unshipped his sculls,
stood holding on to a barge, and hand over hand long-wise along
the barge's side gradually worked his boat under her head into a
secret little nook of scummy water.  And driven into that nook, and
wedged as he had described, was Gaffer's boat; that boat with the
stain still in it, bearing some resemblance to a muffled human
form.

'Now tell me I'm a liar!' said the honest man.

('With a morbid expectation,' murmured Eugene to Lightwood,
'that somebody is always going to tell him the truth.')

'This is Hexam's boat,' said Mr Inspector.  'I know her well.'

'Look at the broken scull.  Look at the t'other scull gone.  NOW tell
me I am a liar!' said the honest man.

Mr Inspector stepped into the boat.  Eugene and Mortimer looked
on.

'And see now!' added Riderhood, creeping aft, and showing a
stretched rope made fast there and towing overboard.  'Didn't I tell
you he was in luck again?'

'Haul in,' said Mr Inspector.

'Easy to say haul in,' answered Riderhood.  'Not so easy done.  His
luck's got fouled under the keels of the barges.  I tried to haul in
last time, but I couldn't.  See how taut the line is!'

'I must have it up,' said Mr Inspector.  'I am going to take this
boat ashore, and his luck along with it.  Try easy now.'

He tried easy now; but the luck resisted; wouldn't come.

'I mean to have it, and the boat too,' said Mr Inspector, playing the
line.

But still the luck resisted; wouldn't come.

'Take care,' said Riderhood.  'You'll disfigure.  Or pull asunder
perhaps.'

'I am not going to do either, not even to your Grandmother,' said
Mr Inspector; 'but I mean to have it.  Come!' he added, at once
persuasively and with authority to the hidden object in the water,
as he played the line again; 'it's no good this sort of game, you
know.  You MUST come up.  I mean to have you.'

There was so much virtue in this distinctly and decidedly meaning
to have it, that it yielded a little, even while the line was played.

'I told you so,' quoth Mr Inspector, pulling off his outer coat, and
leaning well over the stern with a will.  'Come!'

It was an awful sort of fishing, but it no more disconcerted Mr
Inspector than if he had been fishing in a punt on a summer
evening by some soothing weir high up the peaceful river.  After
certain minutes, and a few directions to the rest to 'ease her a little
for'ard,' and 'now ease her a trifle aft,' and the like, he said
composedly, 'All clear!' and the line and the boat came free
together.

Accepting Lightwood's proffered hand to help him up, he then put
on his coat, and said to Riderhood, 'Hand me over those spare
sculls of yours, and I'll pull this in to the nearest stairs.  Go ahead
you, and keep out in pretty open water, that I mayn't get fouled
again.'

His directions were obeyed, and they pulled ashore directly; two in
one boat, two in the other.

'Now,' said Mr Inspector, again to Riderhood, when they were all
on the slushy stones; 'you have had more practice in this than I
have had, and ought to be a better workman at it.  Undo the tow-
rope, and we'll help you haul in.'

Riderhood got into the boat accordingly.  It appeared as if he had
scarcely had a moment's time to touch the rope or look over the
stern, when he came scrambling back, as pale as the morning, and
gasped out:

'By the Lord, he's done me!'

'What do you mean?' they all demanded.

He pointed behind him at the boat, and gasped to that degree that
he dropped upon the stones to get his breath.

'Gaffer's done me.  It's Gaffer!'

They ran to the rope, leaving him gasping there.  Soon, the form of
the bird of prey, dead some hours, lay stretched upon the shore,
with a new blast storming at it and clotting the wet hair with hail-
stones.

Father, was that you calling me?  Father!  I thought I heard you call
me twice before!  Words never to be answered, those, upon the
earth-side of the grave.  The wind sweeps jeeringly over Father,
whips him with the frayed ends of his dress and his jagged hair,
tries to turn him where he lies stark on his back, and force his face
towards the rising sun, that he may be shamed the more.  A lull,
and the wind is secret and prying with him; lifts and lets falls a
rag; hides palpitating under another rag; runs nimbly through his
hair and beard.  Then, in a rush, it cruelly taunts him.  Father, was
that you calling me?  Was it you, the voiceless and the dead?  Was
it you, thus buffeted as you lie here in a heap?  Was it you, thus
baptized unto Death, with these flying impurities now flung upon
your face?  Why not speak, Father?  Soaking into this filthy ground
as you lie here, is your own shape.  Did you never see such a shape
soaked into your boat?  Speak, Father.  Speak to us, the winds, the
only listeners left you!

'Now see,' said Mr Inspector, after mature deliberation: kneeling
on one knee beside the body, when they had stood looking down
on the drowned man, as he had many a time looked down on many
another man: 'the way of it was this.  Of course you gentlemen
hardly failed to observe that he was towing by the neck and arms.'

They had helped to release the rope, and of course not.

'And you will have observed before, and you will observe now, that
this knot, which was drawn chock-tight round his neck by the
strain of his own arms, is a slip-knot': holding it up for
demonstration.

Plain enough.

'Likewise you will have observed how he had run the other end of
this rope to his boat.'

It had the curves and indentations in it still, where it had been
twined and bound.

'Now see,' said Mr Inspector, 'see how it works round upon him.
It's a wild tempestuous evening when this man that was,' stooping
to wipe some hailstones out of his hair with an end of his own
drowned jacket, '--there!  Now he's more like himself; though he's
badly bruised,--when this man that was, rows out upon the river on
his usual lay.  He carries with him this coil of rope.  He always
carries with him this coil of rope.  It's as well known to me as he
was himself.  Sometimes it lay in the bottom of his boat.
Sometimes he hung it loose round his neck.  He was a light-dresser
was this man;--you see?' lifting the loose neckerchief over his
breast, and taking the opportunity of wiping the dead lips with it--
'and when it was wet, or freezing, or blew cold, he would hang
this coil of line round his neck.  Last evening he does this.  Worse
for him!  He dodges about in his boat, does this man, till he gets
chilled.  His hands,' taking up one of them, which dropped like a
leaden weight, 'get numbed.  He sees some object that's in his way
of business, floating.  He makes ready to secure that object.  He
unwinds the end of his coil that he wants to take some turns on in
his boat, and he takes turns enough on it to secure that it shan't run
out.  He makes it too secure, as it happens.  He is a little longer
about this than usual, his hands being numbed.  His object drifts
up, before he is quite ready for it.  He catches at it, thinks he'll
make sure of the contents of the pockets anyhow, in case he should
be parted from it, bends right over the stern, and in one of these
heavy squalls, or in the cross-swell of two steamers, or in not being
quite prepared, or through all or most or some, gets a lurch,
overbalances and goes head-foremost overboard.  Now see!  He
can swim, can this man, and instantly he strikes out.  But in such
striking-out he tangles his arms, pulls strong on the slip-knot, and
it runs home.  The object he had expected to take in tow, floats by,
and his own boat tows him dead, to where we found him, all
entangled in his own line.  You'll ask me how I make out about
the pockets?  First, I'll tell you more; there was silver in 'em.  How
do I make that out?  Simple and satisfactory.  Because he's got it
here.'  The lecturer held up the tightly clenched right hand.

'What is to be done with the remains?' asked Lightwood.

'If you wouldn't object to standing by him half a minute, sir,' was
the reply, 'I'll find the nearest of our men to come and take charge
of him;--I still call it HIM, you see,' said Mr Inspector, looking
back as he went, with a philosophical smile upon the force of
habit.

'Eugene,' said Lightwood and was about to add 'we may wait at a
little distance,' when turning his head he found that no Eugene was
there.

He raised his voice and called 'Eugene!  Holloa!'  But no Eugene
replied.

It was broad daylight now, and he looked about.  But no Eugene
was in all the view.

Mr Inspector speedily returning down the wooden stairs, with a
police constable, Lightwood asked him if he had seen his friend
leave them?  Mr Inspector could not exactly say that he had seen
him go, but had noticed that he was restless.

'Singular and entertaining combination, sir, your friend.'

'I wish it had not been a part of his singular entertaining
combination to give me the slip under these dreary circumstances
at this time of the morning,' said Lightwood.  'Can we get anything
hot to drink?'

We could, and we did.  In a public-house kitchen with a large fire.
We got hot brandy and water, and it revived us wonderfully.  Mr
Inspector having to Mr Riderhood announced his official intention
of 'keeping his eye upon him', stood him in a corner of the
fireplace, like a wet umbrella, and took no further outward and
visible notice of that honest man, except ordering a separate service
of brandy and water for him: apparently out of the public funds.

As Mortimer Lightwood sat before the blazing fire, conscious of
drinking brandy and water then and there in his sleep, and yet at
one and the same time drinking burnt sherry at the Six Jolly
Fellowships, and lying under the boat on the river shore, and
sitting in the boat that Riderhood rowed, and listening to the
lecture recently concluded, and having to dine in the Temple with
an unknown man, who described himself as M. H. F. Eugene
Gaffer Harmon, and said he lived at Hailstorm,--as he passed
through these curious vicissitudes of fatigue and slumber, arranged
upon the scale of a dozen hours to the second, he became aware of
answering aloud a communication of pressing importance that had
never been made to him, and then turned it into a cough on
beholding Mr Inspector.  For, he felt, with some natural
indignation, that that functionary might otherwise suspect him of
having closed his eyes, or wandered in his attention.

'Here just before us, you see,' said Mr Inspector.

'I see,' said Lightwood, with dignity.

'And had hot brandy and water too, you see,' said Mr Inspector,
'and then cut off at a great rate.'

'Who?' said Lightwood.

'Your friend, you know.'

'I know,' he replied, again with dignity.

After hearing, in a mist through which Mr Inspector loomed vague
and large, that the officer took upon himself to prepare the dead
man's daughter for what had befallen in the night, and generally
that he took everything upon himself, Mortimer Lightwood
stumbled in his sleep to a cab-stand, called a cab, and had entered
the army and committed a capital military offence and been tried
by court martial and found guilty and had arranged his affairs and
been marched out to be shot, before the door banged.

Hard work rowing the cab through the City to the Temple, for a
cup of from five to ten thousand pounds value, given by Mr Boffin;
and hard work holding forth at that immeasurable length to Eugene
(when he had been rescued with a rope from the running
pavement) for making off in that extraordinary manner!  But he
offered such ample apologies, and was so very penitent, that when
Lightwood got out of the cab, he gave the driver a particular charge
to be careful of him.  Which the driver (knowing there was no
other fare left inside) stared at prodigiously.

In short, the night's work had so exhausted and worn out this actor
in it, that he had become a mere somnambulist.  He was too tired
to rest in his sleep, until he was even tired out of being too tired,
and dropped into oblivion.  Late in the afternoon he awoke, and in
some anxiety sent round to Eugene's lodging hard by, to inquire if
he were up yet?

Oh yes, he was up.  In fact, he had not been to bed.  He had just
come home.  And here he was, close following on the heels of the
message.

'Why what bloodshot, draggled, dishevelled spectacle is this!' cried
Mortimer.

'Are my feathers so very much rumpled?' said Eugene, coolly going
up to the looking-glass.  They ARE rather out of sorts.  But
consider.  Such a night for plumage!'

'Such a night?' repeated Mortimer.  'What became of you in the
morning?'

'My dear fellow,' said Eugene, sitting on his bed, 'I felt that we had
bored one another so long, that an unbroken continuance of those
relations must inevitably terminate in our flying to opposite points
of the earth.  I also felt that I had committed every crime in the
Newgate Calendar.  So, for mingled considerations of friendship
and felony, I took a walk.'



Chapter 15

TWO NEW SERVANTS


Mr and Mrs Boffin sat after breakfast, in the Bower, a prey to
prosperity.  Mr Boffin's face denoted Care and Complication.
Many disordered papers were before him, and he looked at them
about as hopefully as an innocent civilian might look at a crowd of
troops whom he was required at five minutes' notice to manoeuvre
and review.  He had been engaged in some attempts to make notes
of these papers; but being troubled (as men of his stamp often are)
with an exceedingly distrustful and corrective thumb, that busy
member had so often interposed to smear his notes, that they were
little more legible than the various impressions of itself; which
blurred his nose and forehead.  It is curious to consider, in such a
case as Mr Boffin's, what a cheap article ink is, and how far it may
be made to go.  As a grain of musk will scent a drawer for many
years, and still lose nothing appreciable of its original weight, so a
halfpenny-worth of ink would blot Mr Boffin to the roots of his
hair and the calves of his legs, without inscribing a line on the
paper before him, or appearing to diminish in the inkstand.

Mr Boffin was in such severe literary difficulties that his eyes were
prominent and fixed, and his breathing was stertorous, when, to
the great relief of Mrs Boffin, who observed these symptoms with
alarm, the yard bell rang.

'Who's that, I wonder!' said Mrs Boffin.

Mr Boffin drew a long breath, laid down his pen, looked at his
notes as doubting whether he had the pleasure of their
acquaintance, and appeared, on a second perusal of their
countenances, to be confirmed in his impression that he had not,
when there was announced by the hammer-headed young man:

'Mr Rokesmith.'

'Oh!' said Mr Boffin.  'Oh indeed!  Our and the Wilfers' Mutual
Friend, my dear.  Yes.  Ask him to come in.'

Mr Rokesmith appeared.

'Sit down, sir,' said Mr Boffin, shaking hands with him.  'Mrs
Boffin you're already acquainted with.  Well, sir, I am rather
unprepared to see you, for, to tell you the truth, I've been so busy
with one thing and another, that I've not had time to turn your offer
over.'

'That's apology for both of us: for Mr Boffin, and for me as well,'
said the smiling Mrs Boffin.  'But Lor! we can talk it over now;
can't us?'

Mr Rokesmith bowed, thanked her, and said he hoped so.

'Let me see then,' resumed Mr Boffin, with his hand to his chin.  'It
was Secretary that you named; wasn't it?'

'I said Secretary,' assented Mr Rokesmith.

'It rather puzzled me at the time,' said Mr Boffin, 'and it rather
puzzled me and Mrs Boffin when we spoke of it afterwards,
because (not to make a mystery of our belief) we have always
believed a Secretary to be a piece of furniture, mostly of mahogany,
lined with green baize or leather, with a lot of little drawers in it.
Now, you won't think I take a liberty when I mention that you
certainly ain't THAT.'

Certainly not, said Mr Rokesmith.  But he had used the word in
the sense of Steward.

'Why, as to Steward, you see,' returned Mr Boffin, with his hand
still to his chin, 'the odds are that Mrs Boffin and me may never go
upon the water.  Being both bad sailors, we should want a Steward
if we did; but there's generally one provided.'

Mr Rokesmith again explained; defining the duties he sought to
undertake, as those of general superintendent, or manager, or
overlooker, or man of business.

'Now, for instance--come!' said Mr Boffin, in his pouncing way.  'If
you entered my employment, what would you do?'

'I would keep exact accounts of all the expenditure you sanctioned,
Mr Boffin.  I would write your letters, under your direction.  I
would transact your business with people in your pay or
employment.  I would,' with a glance and a half-smile at the table,
'arrange your papers--'

Mr Boffin rubbed his inky ear, and looked at his wife.

'--And so arrange them as to have them always in order for
immediate reference, with a note of the contents of each outside it.'

'I tell you what,' said Mr Boffin, slowly crumpling his own blotted
note in his hand; 'if you'll turn to at these present papers, and see
what you can make of 'em, I shall know better what I can make of
you.'

No sooner said than done.  Relinquishing his hat and gloves, Mr
Rokesmith sat down quietly at the table, arranged the open papers
into an orderly heap, cast his eyes over each in succession, folded
it, docketed it on the outside, laid it in a second heap, and, when
that second heap was complete and the first gone, took from his
pocket a piece of string and tied it together with a remarkably
dexterous hand at a running curve and a loop.

'Good!' said Mr Boffin.  'Very good!  Now let us hear what they're
all about; will you be so good?'

John Rokesmith read his abstracts aloud.  They were all about the
new house.  Decorator's estimate, so much.  Furniture estimate, so
much.  Estimate for furniture of offices, so much.  Coach-maker's
estimate, so much.  Horse-dealer's estimate, so much.  Harness-
maker's estimate, so much.  Goldsmith's estimate, so much.
Total, so very much.  Then came correspondence.  Acceptance of
Mr Boffin's offer of such a date, and to such an effect.  Rejection of
Mr Boffin's proposal of such a date and to such an effect.
Concerning Mr Boffin's scheme of such another date to such
another effect.  All compact and methodical.

'Apple-pie order!' said Mr Boffin, after checking off each
inscription with his hand, like a man beating time.  'And whatever
you do with your ink, I can't think, for you're as clean as a whistle
after it.  Now, as to a letter.  Let's,' said Mr Boffin, rubbing his
hands in his pleasantly childish admiration, 'let's try a letter next.'

'To whom shall it be addressed, Mr Boffin?'

'Anyone.  Yourself.'

Mr Rokesmith quickly wrote, and then read aloud:

'"Mr Boffin presents his compliments to Mr John Rokesmith, and
begs to say that he has decided on giving Mr John Rokesmith a
trial in the capacity he desires to fill.  Mr Boffin takes Mr John
Rokesmith at his word, in postponing to some indefinite period,
the consideration of salary.  It is quite understood that Mr Boffin is
in no way committed on that point.  Mr Boffin has merely to add,
that he relies on Mr John Rokesmith's assurance that he will be
faithful and serviceable.  Mr John Rokesmith will please enter on
his duties immediately."'

'Well!  Now, Noddy!' cried Mrs Boffin, clapping her hands, 'That
IS a good one!'

Mr Boffin was no less delighted; indeed, in his own bosom, he
regarded both the composition itself and the device that had given
birth to it, as a very remarkable monument of human ingenuity.

'And I tell you, my deary,' said Mrs Boffin, 'that if you don't close
with Mr Rokesmith now at once, and if you ever go a muddling
yourself again with things never meant nor made for you, you'll
have an apoplexy--besides iron-moulding your linen--and you'll
break my heart.'

Mr Boffin embraced his spouse for these words of wisdom, and
then, congratulating John Rokesmith on the brilliancy of his
achievements, gave him his hand in pledge of their new relations.
So did Mrs Boffin.

'Now,' said Mr Boffin, who, in his frankness, felt that it did not
become him to have a gentleman in his employment five minutes,
without reposing some confidence in him, 'you must be let a little
more into our affairs, Rokesmith.  I mentioned to you, when I
made your acquaintance, or I might better say when you made
mine, that Mrs Boffin's inclinations was setting in the way of
Fashion, but that I didn't know how fashionable we might or might
not grow.  Well!  Mrs Boffin has carried the day, and we're going
in neck and crop for Fashion.'

'I rather inferred that, sir,' replied John Rokesmith, 'from the scale
on which your new establishment is to be maintained.'

'Yes,' said Mr Boffin, 'it's to be a Spanker.  The fact is, my literary
man named to me that a house with which he is, as I may say,
connected--in which he has an interest--'

'As property?' inquired John Rokesmith.

'Why no,' said Mr Boffin, 'not exactly that; a sort of a family tie.'

'Association?' the Secretary suggested.

'Ah!' said Mr Boffin.  'Perhaps.  Anyhow, he named to me that the
house had a board up, "This Eminently Aristocratic Mansion to be
let or sold."  Me and Mrs Boffin went to look at it, and finding it
beyond a doubt Eminently Aristocratic (though a trifle high and
dull, which after all may be part of the same thing) took it.  My
literary man was so friendly as to drop into a charming piece of
poetry on that occasion, in which he complimented Mrs Boffin on
coming into possession of--how did it go, my dear?'

Mrs Boffin replied:

     '"The gay, the gay and festive scene,
       The halls, the halls of dazzling light."'

'That's it!  And it was made neater by there really being two halls
in the house, a front 'un and a back 'un, besides the servants'.  He
likewise dropped into a very pretty piece of poetry to be sure,
respecting the extent to which he would be willing to put himself
out of the way to bring Mrs Boffin round, in case she should ever
get low in her spirits in the house.  Mrs Boffin has a wonderful
memory.  Will you repeat it, my dear?'

Mrs Boffin complied, by reciting the verses in which this obliging
offer had been made, exactly as she had received them.

     '"I'll tell thee how the maiden wept, Mrs Boffin,
       When her true love was slain ma'am,
       And how her broken spirit slept, Mrs Boffin,
       And never woke again ma'am.
       I'll tell thee (if agreeable to Mr Boffin) how the steed drew
        nigh,
       And left his lord afar;
       And if my tale (which I hope Mr Boffin might excuse) should
        make you sigh,
       I'll strike the light guitar."'

'Correct to the letter!' said Mr Boffin.  'And I consider that the
poetry brings us both in, in a beautiful manner.'

The effect of the poem on the Secretary being evidently to astonish
him, Mr Boffin was confirmed in his high opinion of it, and was
greatly pleased.

'Now, you see, Rokesmith,' he went on, 'a literary man--WITH a
wooden leg--is liable to jealousy.  I shall therefore cast about for
comfortable ways and means of not calling up Wegg's jealousy,
but of keeping you in your department, and keeping him in his.'

'Lor!' cried Mrs Boffin.  'What I say is, the world's wide enough for
all of us!'

'So it is, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, 'when not literary.  But when so,
not so.  And I am bound to bear in mind that I took Wegg on, at a
time when I had no thought of being fashionable or of leaving the
Bower.  To let him feel himself anyways slighted now, would be to
be guilty of a meanness, and to act like having one's head turned
by the halls of dazzling light.  Which Lord forbid!  Rokesmith,
what shall we say about your living in the house?'

'In this house?'

'No, no.  I have got other plans for this house.  In the new house?'

'That will be as you please, Mr Boffin.  I hold myself quite at your
disposal.  You know where I live at present.'

'Well!' said Mr Boffin, after considering the point; 'suppose you
keep as you are for the present, and we'll decide by-and-by.  You'll
begin to take charge at once, of all that's going on in the new
house, will you?'

'Most willingly.  I will begin this very day.  Will you give me the
address?'

Mr Boffin repeated it, and the Secretary wrote it down in his
pocket-book.  Mrs Boffin took the opportunity of his being so
engaged, to get a better observation of his face than she had yet
taken.  It impressed her in his favour, for she nodded aside to Mr
Boffin, 'I like him.'

'I will see directly that everything is in train, Mr Boffin.'

'Thank'ee.  Being here, would you care at all to look round the
Bower?'

'I should greatly like it.  I have heard so much of its story.'

'Come!' said Mr Boffin.  And he and Mrs Boffin led the way.

A gloomy house the Bower, with sordid signs on it of having been,
through its long existence as Harmony Jail, in miserly holding.
Bare of paint, bare of paper on the walls, bare of furniture, bare of
experience of human life.  Whatever is built by man for man's
occupation, must, like natural creations, fulfil the intention of its
existence, or soon perish.  This old house had wasted--more from
desuetude than it would have wasted from use, twenty years for
one.

A certain leanness falls upon houses not sufficiently imbued with
life (as if they were nourished upon it), which was very noticeable
here.  The staircase, balustrades, and rails, had a spare look--an air
of being denuded to the bone--which the panels of the walls and
the jambs of the doors and windows also bore.  The scanty
moveables partook of it; save for the cleanliness of the place, the
dust--into which they were all resolving would have lain thick on
the floors; and those, both in colour and in grain, were worn like
old faces that had kept much alone.

The bedroom where the clutching old man had lost his grip on life,
was left as he had left it.  There was the old grisly four-post
bedstead, without hangings, and with a jail-like upper rim of iron
and spikes; and there was the old patch-work counterpane.  There
was the tight-clenched old bureau, receding atop like a bad and
secret forehead; there was the cumbersome old table with twisted
legs, at the bed-side; and there was the box upon it, in which the
will had lain.  A few old chairs with patch-work covers, under
which the more precious stuff to be preserved had slowly lost its
quality of colour without imparting pleasure to any eye, stood
against the wall.  A hard family likeness was on all these things.

'The room was kept like this, Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin, 'against
the son's return.  In short, everything in the house was kept exactly
as it came to us, for him to see and approve.  Even now, nothing is
changed but our own room below-stairs that you have just left.
When the son came home for the last time in his life, and for the
last time in his life saw his father, it was most likely in this room
that they met.'

As the Secretary looked all round it, his eyes rested on a side door
in a corner.

'Another staircase,' said Mr Boffin, unlocking the door, 'leading
down into the yard.  We'll go down this way, as you may like to
see the yard, and it's all in the road.  When the son was a little
child, it was up and down these stairs that he mostly came and
went to his father.  He was very timid of his father.  I've seen him
sit on these stairs, in his shy way, poor child, many a time.  Mr and
Mrs Boffin have comforted him, sitting with his little book on
these stairs, often.'

'Ah!  And his poor sister too,' said Mrs Boffin.  'And here's the
sunny place on the white wall where they one day measured one
another.  Their own little hands wrote up their names here, only
with a pencil; but the names are here still, and the poor dears gone
for ever.'

'We must take care of the names, old lady,' said Mr Boffin.  'We
must take care of the names.  They shan't be rubbed out in our
time, nor yet, if we can help it, in the time after us.  Poor little
children!'

'Ah, poor little children!' said Mrs Boffin.

They had opened the door at the bottom of the staircase giving on
the yard, and they stood in the sunlight, looking at the scrawl of the
two unsteady childish hands two or three steps up the staircase.
There was something in this simple memento of a blighted
childhood, and in the tenderness of Mrs Boffin, that touched the
Secretary.

Mr Boffin then showed his new man of business the Mounds, and
his own particular Mound which had been left him as his legacy
under the will before he acquired the whole estate.

'It would have been enough for us,' said Mr Boffin, 'in case it had
pleased God to spare the last of those two young lives and
sorrowful deaths.  We didn't want the rest.'

At the treasures of the yard, and at the outside of the house, and at
the detached building which Mr Boffin pointed out as the residence
of himself and his wife during the many years of their service, the
Secretary looked with interest.  It was not until Mr Boffin had
shown him every wonder of the Bower twice over, that he
remembered his having duties to discharge elsewhere.

'You have no instructions to give me, Mr Boffin, in reference to
this place?'

'Not any, Rokesmith.  No.'

'Might I ask, without seeming impertinent, whether you have any
intention of selling it?'

'Certainly not.  In remembrance of our old master, our old master's
children, and our old service, me and Mrs Boffin mean to keep it
up as it stands.'

The Secretary's eyes glanced with so much meaning in them at the
Mounds, that Mr Boffin said, as if in answer to a remark:

'Ay, ay, that's another thing.  I may sell THEM, though I should be
sorry to see the neighbourhood deprived of 'em too.  It'll look but a
poor dead flat without the Mounds.  Still I don't say that I'm going
to keep 'em always there, for the sake of the beauty of the
landscape.  There's no hurry about it; that's all I say at present.  I
ain't a scholar in much, Rokesmith, but I'm a pretty fair scholar in
dust.  I can price the Mounds to a fraction, and I know how they
can be best disposed of; and likewise that they take no harm by
standing where they do.  You'll look in to-morrow, will you be so
kind?'

'Every day.  And the sooner I can get you into your new house,
complete, the better you will be pleased, sir?'

'Well, it ain't that I'm in a mortal hurry,' said Mr Boffin; 'only
when you DO pay people for looking alive, it's as well to know
that they ARE looking alive.  Ain't that your opinion?'

'Quite!' replied the Secretary; and so withdrew.

'Now,' said Mr Boffin to himself; subsiding into his regular series
of turns in the yard, 'if I can make it comfortable with Wegg, my
affairs will be going smooth.'

The man of low cunning had, of course, acquired a mastery over
the man of high simplicity.  The mean man had, of course, got the
better of the generous man.  How long such conquests last, is
another matter; that they are achieved, is every-day experience, not
even to be flourished away by Podsnappery itself.  The
undesigning Boffin had become so far immeshed by the wily Wegg
that his mind misgave him he was a very designing man indeed in
purposing to do more for Wegg.  It seemed to him (so skilful was
Wegg) that he was plotting darkly, when he was contriving to do
the very thing that Wegg was plotting to get him to do.  And thus,
while he was mentally turning the kindest of kind faces on Wegg
this morning, he was not absolutely sure but that he might
somehow deserve the charge of turning his back on him.

For these reasons Mr Boffin passed but anxious hours until
evening came, and with it Mr Wegg, stumping leisurely to the
Roman Empire.  At about this period Mr Boffin had become
profoundly interested in the fortunes of a great military leader
known to him as Bully Sawyers, but perhaps better known to fame
and easier of identification by the classical student, under the less
Britannic name of Belisarius.  Even this general's career paled in
interest for Mr Boffin before the clearing of his conscience with
Wegg; and hence, when that literary gentleman had according to
custom eaten and drunk until he was all a-glow, and when he took
up his book with the usual chirping introduction, 'And now, Mr
Boffin, sir, we'll decline and we'll fall!' Mr Boffin stopped him.

'You remember, Wegg, when I first told you that I wanted to make
a sort of offer to you?'

'Let me get on my considering cap, sir,' replied that gentleman,
turning the open book face downward.  'When you first told me
that you wanted to make a sort of offer to me?  Now let me think.'
(as if there were the least necessity)   'Yes, to be sure I do, Mr
Boffin.  It was at my corner.  To be sure it was!  You had first
asked me whether I liked your name, and Candour had compelled
a reply in the negative case.  I little thought then, sir, how familiar
that name would come to be!'

'I hope it will be more familiar still, Wegg.'

'Do you, Mr Boffin?  Much obliged to you, I'm sure.  Is it your
pleasure, sir, that we decline and we fall?' with a feint of taking up
the book.

'Not just yet awhile, Wegg.  In fact, I have got another offer to
make you.'

Mr Wegg (who had had nothing else in his mind for several
nights) took off his spectacles with an air of bland surprise.

'And I hope you'll like it, Wegg.'

'Thank you, sir,' returned that reticent individual.  'I hope it may
prove so.  On all accounts, I am sure.'  (This, as a philanthropic
aspiration.)

'What do you think,' said Mr Boffin, 'of not keeping a stall,
Wegg?'

'I think, sir,' replied Wegg, 'that I should like to be shown the
gentleman prepared to make it worth my while!'

'Here he is,' said Mr Boffin.

Mr Wegg was going to say, My Benefactor, and had said My
Bene, when a grandiloquent change came over him.

'No, Mr Boffin, not you sir.  Anybody but you.  Do not fear, Mr
Boffin, that I shall contaminate the premises which your gold has
bought, with MY lowly pursuits.  I am aware, sir, that it would not
become me to carry on my little traffic under the windows of your
mansion.  I have already thought of that, and taken my measures.
No need to be bought out, sir.  Would Stepney Fields be
considered intrusive?  If not remote enough, I can go remoter.  In
the words of the poet's song, which I do not quite remember:

     Thrown on the wide world, doom'd to wander and roam,
     Bereft of my parents, bereft of a home,
     A stranger to something and what's his name joy,
     Behold little Edmund the poor Peasant boy.

--And equally,' said Mr Wegg, repairing the want of direct
application in the last line, 'behold myself on a similar footing!'

'Now, Wegg, Wegg, Wegg,' remonstrated the excellent Boffin.
'You are too sensitive.'

'I know I am, sir,' returned Wegg, with obstinate magnanimity.  'I
am acquainted with my faults.  I always was, from a child, too
sensitive.'

'But listen,' pursued the Golden Dustman; 'hear me out, Wegg.
You have taken it into your head that I mean to pension you off.'

'True, sir,' returned Wegg, still with an obstinate magnanimity.  'I
am acquainted with my faults.  Far be it from me to deny them.  I
HAVE taken it into my head.'

'But I DON'T mean it.'

The assurance seemed hardly as comforting to Mr Wegg, as Mr
Boffin intended it to be.  Indeed, an appreciable elongation of his
visage might have been observed as he replied:

'Don't you, indeed, sir?'

'No,' pursued Mr Boffin; 'because that would express, as I
understand it, that you were not going to do anything to deserve
your money.  But you are; you are.'

'That, sir,' replied Mr Wegg, cheering up bravely, 'is quite another
pair of shoes.  Now, my independence as a man is again elevated.
Now, I no longer

     Weep for the hour,
     When to Boffinses bower,
     The Lord of the valley with offers came;
     Neither does the moon hide her light
     From the heavens to-night,
     And weep behind her clouds o'er any individual in the present
     Company's shame.

--Please to proceed, Mr Boffin.'

'Thank'ee, Wegg, both for your confidence in me and for your
frequent dropping into poetry; both of which is friendly.   Well,
then; my idea is, that you should give up your stall, and that I
should put you into the Bower here, to keep it for us.  It's a
pleasant spot; and a man with coals and candles and a pound a
week might be in clover here.'

'Hem!  Would that man, sir--we will say that man, for the purposes
of argueyment;' Mr Wegg made a smiling demonstration of great
perspicuity here; 'would that man, sir, be expected to throw any
other capacity in, or would any other capacity be considered extra?
Now let us (for the purposes of argueyment) suppose that man to
be engaged as a reader: say (for the purposes of argunyment) in the
evening.  Would that man's pay as a reader in the evening, be
added to the other amount, which, adopting your language, we will
call clover; or would it merge into that amount, or clover?'

'Well,' said Mr Boffin, 'I suppose it would be added.'

'I suppose it would, sir.  You are right, sir.  Exactly my own views,
Mr Boffin.'  Here Wegg rose, and balancing himself on his wooden
leg, fluttered over his prey with extended hand.  'Mr Boffin,
consider it done.  Say no more, sir, not a word more.  My stall and
I are for ever parted.  The collection of ballads will in future be
reserved for private study, with the object of making poetry
tributary'--Wegg was so proud of having found this word, that he
said it again, with a capital letter--'Tributary, to friendship.  Mr
Boffin, don't allow yourself to be made uncomfortable by the pang
it gives me to part from my stock and stall.  Similar emotion was
undergone by my own father when promoted for his merits from
his occupation as a waterman to a situation under Government.
His Christian name was Thomas.  His words at the time (I was
then an infant, but so deep was their impression on me, that I
committed them to memory) were:

     Then farewell my trim-built wherry,
     Oars and coat and badge farewell!
     Never more at Chelsea Ferry,
     Shall your Thomas take a spell!

--My father got over it, Mr Boffin, and so shall I.'

While delivering these valedictory observations, Wegg continually
disappointed Mr Boffin of his hand by flourishing it in the air.  He
now darted it at his patron, who took it, and felt his mind relieved
of a great weight: observing that as they had arranged their joint
affairs so satisfactorily, he would now be glad to look into those
of Bully Sawyers.  Which, indeed, had been left over-night in a
very unpromising posture, and for whose impending expedition
against the Persians the weather had been by no means favourable
all day.

Mr Wegg resumed his spectacles therefore.  But Sawyers was not
to be of the party that night; for, before Wegg had found his place,
Mrs Boffin's tread was heard upon the stairs, so unusually heavy
and hurried, that Mr Boffin would have started up at the sound,
anticipating some occurrence much out of the common course,
even though she had not also called to him in an agitated tone.

Mr Boffin hurried out, and found her on the dark staircase,
panting, with a lighted candle in her hand.

'What's the matter, my dear?'

'I don't know; I don't know; but I wish you'd come up-stairs.'

Much surprised, Mr Boffin went up stairs and accompanied Mrs
Boffin into their own room: a second large room on the same floor
as the room in which the late proprietor had died.  Mr Boffin
looked all round him, and saw nothing more unusual than various
articles of folded linen on a large chest, which Mrs Boffin had been
sorting.

'What is it, my dear?  Why, you're frightened!  YOU frightened?'

'I am not one of that sort certainly,' said Mrs Boffin, as she sat
down in a chair to recover herself, and took her husband's arm; 'but
it's very strange!'

'What is, my dear?'

'Noddy, the faces of the old man and the two children are all over
the house to-night.'

'My dear?' exclaimed Mr Boffin.  But not without a certain
uncomfortable sensation gliding down his back.

'I know it must sound foolish, and yet it is so.'

'Where did you think you saw them?'

'I don't know that I think I saw them anywhere.  I felt them.'

'Touched them?'

'No.  Felt them in the air.  I was sorting those things on the chest,
and not thinking of the old man or the children, but singing to
myself, when all in a moment I felt there was a face growing out of
the dark.'

'What face?' asked her husband, looking about him.

'For a moment it was the old man's, and then it got younger.  For a
moment it was both the children's, and then it got older.  For a
moment it was a strange face, and then it was all the faces.'

'And then it was gone?'

'Yes; and then it was gone.'

'Where were you then, old lady?'

'Here, at the chest.  Well; I got the better of it, and went on sorting,
and went on singing to myself.  "Lor!" I says, "I'll think of
something else--something comfortable--and put it out of my
head."  So I thought of the new house and Miss Bella Wilfer, and
was thinking at a great rate with that sheet there in my hand, when
all of a sudden, the faces seemed to be hidden in among the folds
of it and I let it drop.'

As it still lay on the floor where it had fallen, Mr Boffin picked it
up and laid it on the chest.

'And then you ran down stairs?'

'No.  I thought I'd try another room, and shake it off.  I says to
myself, "I'll go and walk slowly up and down the old man's room
three times, from end to end, and then I shall have conquered it."  I
went in with the candle in my hand; but the moment I came near
the bed, the air got thick with them.'

'With the faces?'

'Yes, and I even felt that they were in the dark behind the side-
door, and on the little staircase, floating away into the yard.  Then,
I called you.'

Mr Boffin, lost in amazement, looked at Mrs Boffin.  Mrs Boffin,
lost in her own fluttered inability to make this out, looked at Mr
Boffin.

'I think, my dear,' said the Golden Dustman, 'I'll at once get rid of
Wegg for the night, because he's coming to inhabit the Bower, and
it might be put into his head or somebody else's, if he heard this
and it got about that the house is haunted.  Whereas we know
better.  Don't we?'

'I never had the feeling in the house before,' said Mrs Boffin; 'and I
have been about it alone at all hours of the night.  I have been in
the house when Death was in it, and I have been in the house when
Murder was a new part of its adventures, and I never had a fright
in it yet.'

'And won't again, my dear,' said Mr Boffin.  'Depend upon it, it
comes of thinking and dwelling on that dark spot.'

'Yes; but why didn't it come before?' asked Mrs Boffin.

This draft on Mr Boffin's philosophy could only be met by that
gentleman with the remark that everything that is at all, must begin
at some time.  Then, tucking his wife's arm under his own, that she
might not be left by herself to be troubled again, he descended to
release Wegg.  Who, being something drowsy after his plentiful
repast, and constitutionally of a shirking temperament, was well
enough pleased to stump away, without doing what he had come to
do, and was paid for doing.

Mr Boffin then put on his hat, and Mrs Boffin her shawl; and the
pair, further provided with a bunch of keys and a lighted lantern,
went all over the dismal house--dismal everywhere, but in their
own two rooms--from cellar to cock-loft.  Not resting satisfied with
giving that much chace to Mrs Boffin's fancies, they pursued them
into the yard and outbuildings, and under the Mounds.  And
setting the lantern, when all was done, at the foot of one of the
Mounds, they comfortably trotted to and fro for an evening walk, to
the end that the murky cobwebs in Mrs Boffin's brain might be
blown away.

There, my dear!' said Mr Boffin when they came in to supper.
'That was the treatment, you see.  Completely worked round,
haven't you?'

'Yes, deary,' said Mrs Boffin, laying aside her shawl.  'I'm not
nervous any more.  I'm not a bit troubled now.  I'd go anywhere
about the house the same as ever.  But--'

'Eh!' said Mr Boffin.

'But I've only to shut my eyes.'

'And what then?'

'Why then,' said Mrs Boffin, speaking with her eyes closed, and
her left hand thoughtfully touching her brow, 'then, there they are!
The old man's face, and it gets younger.  The two children's faces,
and they get older.  A face that I don't know.  And then all the
faces!'

Opening her eyes again, and seeing her husband's face across the
table, she leaned forward to give it a pat on the cheek, and sat
down to supper, declaring it to be the best face in the world.



Chapter 16

MINDERS AND RE-MINDERS


The Secretary lost no time in getting to work, and his vigilance and
method soon set their mark on the Golden Dustman's affairs.  His
earnestness in determining to understand the length and breadth
and depth of every piece of work submitted to him by his employer,
was as special as his despatch in transacting it.  He accepted no
information or explanation at second hand, but made himself the
master of everything confided to him.

One part of the Secretary's conduct, underlying all the rest, might
have been mistrusted by a man with a better knowledge of men
than the Golden Dustman had.  The Secretary was as far from
being inquisitive or intrusive as Secretary could be, but nothing
less than a complete understanding of the whole of the affairs
would content him.  It soon became apparent (from the knowledge
with which he set out) that he must have been to the office where
the Harmon will was registered, and must have read the will.  He
anticipated Mr Boffin's consideration whether he should be
advised with on this or that topic, by showing that he already knew
of it and understood it.  He did this with no attempt at
concealment, seeming to be satisfied that it was part of his duty to
have prepared himself at all attainable points for its utmost
discharge.

This might--let it be repeated--have awakened some little vague
mistrust in a man more worldly-wise than the Golden Dustman.
On the other hand, the Secretary was discerning, discreet, and
silent, though as zealous as if the affairs had been his own.  He
showed no love of patronage or the command of money, but
distinctly preferred resigning both to Mr Boffin.  If, in his limited
sphere, he sought power, it was the power of knowledge; the
power derivable from a perfect comprehension of his business.

As on the Secretary's face there was a nameless cloud, so on his
manner there was a shadow equally indefinable.  It was not that he
was embarrassed, as on that first night with the Wilfer family; he
was habitually unembarrassed now, and yet the something
remained.  It was not that his manner was bad, as on that occasion;
it was now very good, as being modest, gracious, and ready.  Yet
the something never left it.  It has been written of men who have
undergone a cruel captivity, or who have passed through a terrible
strait, or who in self-preservation have killed a defenceless fellow-
creature, that the record thereof has never faded from their
countenances until they died.  Was there any such record here?

He established a temporary office for himself in the new house, and
all went well under his hand, with one singular exception.  He
manifestly objected to communicate with Mr Boffin's solicitor.
Two or three times, when there was some slight occasion for his
doing so, he transferred the task to Mr Boffin; and his evasion of it
soon became so curiously apparent, that Mr Boffin spoke to him on
the subject of his reluctance.

'It is so,' the Secretary admitted.  'I would rather not.'

Had he any personal objection to Mr Lightwood?

'I don't know him.'

Had he suffered from law-suits?

'Not more than other men,' was his short answer.

Was he prejudiced against the race of lawyers?

'No.  But while I am in your employment, sir, I would rather be
excused from going between the lawyer and the client.  Of course if
you press it, Mr Boffin, I am ready to comply.  But I should take it
as a great favour if you would not press it without urgent occasion.'

Now, it could not be said that there WAS urgent occasion, for
Lightwood retained no other affairs in his hands than such as still
lingered and languished about the undiscovered criminal, and such
as arose out of the purchase of the house.  Many other matters that
might have travelled to him, now stopped short at the Secretary,
under whose administration they were far more expeditiously and
satisfactorily disposed of than they would have been if they had got
into Young Blight's domain.  This the Golden Dustman quite
understood.  Even the matter immediately in hand was of very little
moment as requiring personal appearance on the Secretary's part,
for it amounted to no more than this:--The death of Hexam
rendering the sweat of the honest man's brow unprofitable, the
honest man had shufflingly declined to moisten his brow for
nothing, with that severe exertion which is known in legal circles
as swearing your way through a stone wall.  Consequently, that
new light had gone sputtering out.  But, the airing of the old facts
had led some one concerned to suggest that it would be well before
they were reconsigned to their gloomy shelf--now probably for
ever--to induce or compel that Mr Julius Handford to reappear and
be questioned.  And all traces of Mr Julius Handford being lost,
Lightwood now referred to his client for authority to seek him
through public advertisement.

'Does your objection go to writing to Lightwood, Rokesmith?'

'Not in the least, sir.'

'Then perhaps you'll write him a line, and say he is free to do what
he likes.  I don't think it promises.'

'I don't think it promises,' said the Secretary.

'Still, he may do what he likes.'

'I will write immediately.  Let me thank you for so considerately
yielding to my disinclination.  It may seem less unreasonable, if I
avow to you that although I don't know Mr Lightwood, I have a
disagreeable association connected with him.  It is not his fault; he
is not at all to blame for it, and does not even know my name.'

Mr Boffin dismissed the matter with a nod or two.  The letter was
written, and next day Mr Julius Handford was advertised for.  He
was requested to place himself in communication with Mr
Mortimer Lightwood, as a possible means of furthering the ends of
justice, and a reward was offered to any one acquainted with his
whereabout who would communicate the same to the said Mr
Mortimer Lightwood at his office in the Temple.  Every day for six
weeks this advertisement appeared at the head of all the
newspapers, and every day for six weeks the Secretary, when he
saw it, said to himself; in the tone in which he had said to his
employer,--'I don't think it promises!'

Among his first occupations the pursuit of that orphan wanted by
Mrs Boffin held a conspicuous place.  From the earliest moment of
his engagement he showed a particular desire to please her, and,
knowing her to have this object at heart, he followed it up with
unwearying alacrity and interest.

Mr and Mrs Milvey had found their search a difficult one.  Either
an eligible orphan was of the wrong sex (which almost always
happened) or was too old, or too young, or too sickly, or too dirty,
or too much accustomed to the streets, or too likely to run away; or,
it was found impossible to complete the philanthropic transaction
without buying the orphan.  For, the instant it became known that
anybody wanted the orphan, up started some affectionate relative
of the orphan who put a price upon the orphan's head.  The
suddenness of an orphan's rise in the market was not to be
paralleled by the maddest records of the Stock Exchange.  He
would be at five thousand per cent discount out at nurse making a
mud pie at nine in the morning, and (being inquired for) would go
up to five thousand per cent premium before noon.  The market
was 'rigged' in various artful ways.  Counterfeit stock got into
circulation.  Parents boldly represented themselves as dead, and
brought their orphans with them.  Genuine orphan-stock was
surreptitiously withdrawn from the market.  It being announced, by
emissaries posted for the purpose, that Mr and Mrs Milvey were
coming down the court, orphan scrip would be instantly concealed,
and production refused, save on a condition usually stated by the
brokers as 'a gallon of beer'.  Likewise, fluctuations of a wild and
South-Sea nature were occasioned, by orphan-holders keeping
back, and then rushing into the market a dozen together.  But, the
uniform principle at the root of all these various operations was
bargain and sale; and that principle could not be recognized by Mr
and Mrs Milvey.

At length, tidings were received by the Reverend Frank of a
charming orphan to be found at Brentford.  One of the deceased
parents (late his parishioners) had a poor widowed grandmother in
that agreeable town, and she, Mrs Betty Higden, had carried off the
orphan with maternal care, but could not afford to keep him.

The Secretary proposed to Mrs Boffin, either to go down himself
and take a preliminary survey of this orphan, or to drive her down,
that she might at once form her own opinion.  Mrs Boffin
preferring the latter course, they set off one morning in a hired
phaeton, conveying the hammer-headed young man behind them.

The abode of Mrs Betty Higden was not easy to find, lying in such
complicated back settlements of muddy Brentford that they left
their equipage at the sign of the Three Magpies, and went in search
of it on foot.  After many inquiries and defeats, there was pointed
out to them in a lane, a very small cottage residence, with a board
across the open doorway, hooked on to which board by the armpits
was a young gentleman of tender years, angling for mud with a
headless wooden horse and line.  In this young sportsman,
distinguished by a crisply curling auburn head and a bluff
countenance, the Secretary descried the orphan.

It unfortunately happened as they quickened their pace, that the
orphan, lost to considerations of personal safety in the ardour of the
moment, overbalanced himself and toppled into the street.  Being
an orphan of a chubby conformation, he then took to rolling, and
had rolled into the gutter before they could come up.  From the
gutter he was rescued by John Rokesmith, and thus the first
meeting with Mrs Higden was inaugurated by the awkward
circumstance of their being in possession--one would say at first
sight unlawful possession--of the orphan, upside down and purple
in the countenance.  The board across the doorway too, acting as a
trap equally for the feet of Mrs Higden coming out, and the feet of
Mrs Boffin and John Rokesmith going in, greatly increased the
difficulty of the situation: to which the cries of the orphan imparted
a lugubrious and inhuman character.

At first, it was impossible to explain, on account of the orphan's
'holding his breath': a most terrific proceeding, super-inducing in
the orphan lead-colour rigidity and a deadly silence, compared
with which his cries were music yielding the height of enjoyment.
But as he gradually recovered, Mrs Boffin gradually introduced
herself; and smiling peace was gradually wooed back to Mrs Betty
Higden's home.

It was then perceived to be a small home with a large mangle in it,
at the handle of which machine stood a very long boy, with a very
little head, and an open mouth of disproportionate capacity that
seemed to assist his eyes in staring at the visitors.  In a corner
below the mangle, on a couple of stools, sat two very little
children: a boy and a girl; and when the very long boy, in an
interval of staring, took a turn at the mangle, it was alarming to see
how it lunged itself at those two innocents, like a catapult designed
for their destruction, harmlessly retiring when within an inch of
their heads.  The room was clean and neat.  It had a brick floor,
and a window of diamond panes, and a flounce hanging below the
chimney-piece, and strings nailed from bottom to top outside the
window on which scarlet-beans were to grow in the coming season
if the Fates were propitious.  However propitious they might have
been in the seasons that were gone, to Betty Higden in the matter
of beans, they had not been very favourable in the matter of coins;
for it was easy to see that she was poor.

She was one of those old women, was Mrs Betty Higden, who by
dint of an indomitable purpose and a strong constitution fight out
many years, though each year has come with its new knock-down
blows fresh to the fight against her, wearied by it; an active old
woman, with a bright dark eye and a resolute face, yet quite a
tender creature too; not a logically-reasoning woman, but God is
good, and hearts may count in Heaven as high as heads.

'Yes sure!' said she, when the business was opened, 'Mrs Milvey
had the kindness to write to me, ma'am, and I got Sloppy to read it.
It was a pretty letter.  But she's an affable lady.'

The visitors glanced at the long boy, who seemed to indicate by a
broader stare of his mouth and eyes that in him Sloppy stood
confessed.

'For I aint, you must know,' said Betty, 'much of a hand at reading
writing-hand, though I can read my Bible and most print.  And I
do love a newspaper.  You mightn't think it, but Sloppy is a
beautiful reader of a newspaper.  He do the Police in different
voices.'

The visitors again considered it a point of politeness to look at
Sloppy, who, looking at them, suddenly threw back his head,
extended his mouth to its utmost width, and laughed loud and
long.  At this the two innocents, with their brains in that apparent
danger, laughed, and Mrs Higden laughed, and the orphan
laughed, and then the visitors laughed.  Which was more cheerful
than intelligible.

Then Sloppy seeming to be seized with an industrious mania or
fury, turned to at the mangle, and impelled it at the heads of the
innocents with such a creaking and rumbling, that Mrs Higden
stopped him.

'The gentlefolks can't hear themselves speak, Sloppy.  Bide a bit,
bide a bit!'

'Is that the dear child in your lap?' said Mrs Boffin.

'Yes, ma'am, this is Johnny.'

'Johnny, too!' cried Mrs Boffin, turning to the Secretary; 'already
Johnny!  Only one of the two names left to give him!  He's a pretty
boy.'

With his chin tucked down in his shy childish manner, he was
looking furtively at Mrs Boffin out of his blue eyes, and reaching
his fat dimpled hand up to the lips of the old woman, who was
kissing it by times.

'Yes, ma'am, he's a pretty boy, he's a dear darling boy, he's the
child of my own last left daughter's daughter.  But she's gone the
way of all the rest.'

'Those are not his brother and sister?' said Mrs Boffin.  'Oh, dear
no, ma'am.  Those are Minders.'

'Minders?' the Secretary repeated.

'Left to be Minded, sir.  I keep a Minding-School.  I can take only
three, on account of the Mangle.  But I love children, and Four-
pence a week is Four-pence.  Come here, Toddles and Poddles.'

Toddles was the pet-name of the boy; Poddles of the girl.  At their
little unsteady pace, they came across the floor, hand-in-hand, as if
they were traversing an extremely difficult road intersected by
brooks, and, when they had had their heads patted by Mrs Betty
Higden, made lunges at the orphan, dramatically representing an
attempt to bear him, crowing, into captivity and slavery.  All the
three children enjoyed this to a delightful extent, and the
sympathetic Sloppy again laughed long and loud.  When it was
discreet to stop the play, Betty Higden said 'Go to your seats
Toddles and Poddles,' and they returned hand-in-hand across
country, seeming to find the brooks rather swollen by late rains.

'And Master--or Mister--Sloppy?' said the Secretary, in doubt
whether he was man, boy, or what.

'A love-child,' returned Betty Higden, dropping her voice; 'parents
never known; found in the street.  He was brought up in the--' with
a shiver of repugnance, '--the House.'

'The Poor-house?' said the Secretary.

Mrs Higden set that resolute old face of hers, and darkly nodded
yes.

'You dislike the mention of it.'

'Dislike the mention of it?' answered the old woman.  'Kill me
sooner than take me there.  Throw this pretty child under cart-
horses feet and a loaded waggon, sooner than take him there.
Come to us and find us all a-dying, and set a light to us all where
we lie and let us all blaze away with the house into a heap of
cinders sooner than move a corpse of us there!'

A surprising spirit in this lonely woman after so many years of
hard working, and hard living, my Lords and Gentlemen and
Honourable Boards!  What is it that we call it in our grandiose
speeches?  British independence, rather perverted?  Is that, or
something like it, the ring of the cant?

'Do I never read in the newspapers,' said the dame, fondling the
child--'God help me and the like of me!--how the worn-out people
that do come down to that, get driven from post to pillar and pillar
to post, a-purpose to tire them out!  Do I never read how they are
put off, put off, put off--how they are grudged, grudged, grudged,
the shelter, or the doctor, or the drop of physic, or the bit of bread?
Do I never read how they grow heartsick of it and give it up, after
having let themselves drop so low, and how they after all die out
for want of help?  Then I say, I hope I can die as well as another,
and I'll die without that disgrace.'

Absolutely impossible my Lords and Gentlemen and Honourable
Boards, by any stretch of legislative wisdom to set these perverse
people right in their logic?

'Johnny, my pretty,' continued old Betty, caressing the child, and
rather mourning over it than speaking to it, 'your old Granny Betty
is nigher fourscore year than threescore and ten.  She never begged
nor had a penny of the Union money in all her life.  She paid scot
and she paid lot when she had money to pay; she worked when she
could, and she starved when she must.  You pray that your Granny
may have strength enough left her at the last (she's strong for an
old one, Johnny), to get up from her bed and run and hide herself
and swown to death in a hole, sooner than fall into the hands of
those Cruel Jacks we read of that dodge and drive, and worry and
weary, and scorn and shame, the decent poor.'

A brilliant success, my Lords and Gentlemen and Honourable
Boards to have brought it to this in the minds of the best of the
poor!  Under submission, might it be worth thinking of at any odd
time?

The fright and abhorrence that Mrs Betty Higden smoothed out of
her strong face as she ended this diversion, showed how seriously
she had meant it.

'And does he work for you?' asked the Secretary, gently bringing
the discourse back to Master or Mister Sloppy.

'Yes,' said Betty with a good-humoured smile and nod of the head.
'And well too.'

'Does he live here?'

'He lives more here than anywhere.  He was thought to be no
better than a Natural, and first come to me as a Minder.  I made
interest with Mr Blogg the Beadle to have him as a Minder, seeing
him by chance up at church, and thinking I might do something
with him.  For he was a weak ricketty creetur then.'

'Is he called by his right name?'

'Why, you see, speaking quite correctly, he has no right name.  I
always understood he took his name from being found on a Sloppy
night.'

'He seems an amiable fellow.'

'Bless you, sir, there's not a bit of him,' returned Betty, 'that's not
amiable.  So you may judge how amiable he is, by running your
eye along his heighth.'

Of an ungainly make was Sloppy.  Too much of him longwise, too
little of him broadwise, and too many sharp angles of him angle-
wise.  One of those shambling male human creatures, born to be
indiscreetly candid in the revelation of buttons; every button he had
about him glaring at the public to a quite preternatural extent.  A
considerable capital of knee and elbow and wrist and ankle, had
Sloppy, and he didn't know how to dispose of it to the best
advantage, but was always investing it in wrong securities, and so
getting himself into embarrassed circumstances.  Full-Private
Number One in the Awkward Squad of the rank and file of life,
was Sloppy, and yet had his glimmering notions of standing true to
the Colours.

'And now,' said Mrs Boffin, 'concerning Johnny.'

As Johnny, with his chin tucked in and lips pouting, reclined in
Betty's lap, concentrating his blue eyes on the visitors and shading
them from observation with a dimpled arm, old Betty took one of
his fresh fat hands in her withered right, and fell to gently beating
it on her withered left.

'Yes, ma'am. Concerning Johnny.'

'If you trust the dear child to me,' said Mrs Boffin, with a face
inviting trust, 'he shall have the best of homes, the best of care, the
best of education, the best of friends.  Please God I will be a true
good mother to him!'

'I am thankful to you, ma'am, and the dear child would be thankful
if he was old enough to understand.'  Still lightly beating the little
hand upon her own.  'I wouldn't stand in the dear child's light, not
if I had all my life before me instead of a very little of it.  But I
hope you won't take it ill that I cleave to the child closer than
words can tell, for he's the last living thing left me.'

'Take it ill, my dear soul?  Is it likely?  And you so tender of him as
to bring him home here!'

'I have seen,' said Betty, still with that light beat upon her hard
rough hand, 'so many of them on my lap.  And they are all gone
but this one!  I am ashamed to seem so selfish, but I don't really
mean it.  It'll be the making of his fortune, and he'll be a gentleman
when I am dead.  I--I--don't know what comes over me.  I--try
against it.  Don't notice me!'  The light beat stopped, the resolute
mouth gave way, and the fine strong old face broke up into
weakness and tears.

Now, greatly to the relief of the visitors, the emotional Sloppy no
sooner beheld his patroness in this condition, than, throwing back
his head and throwing open his mouth, he lifted up his voice and
bellowed.  This alarming note of something wrong instantly
terrified Toddles and Poddles, who were no sooner heard to roar
surprisingly, than Johnny, curving himself the wrong way and
striking out at Mrs Boffin with a pair of indifferent shoes, became
a prey to despair.  The absurdity of the situation put its pathos to
the rout.  Mrs Betty Higden was herself in a moment, and brought
them all to order with that speed, that Sloppy, stopping short in a
polysyllabic bellow, transferred his energy to the mangle, and had
taken several penitential turns before he could be stopped.

'There, there, there!' said Mrs Boffin, almost regarding her kind
self as the most ruthless of women.  'Nothing is going to be done.
Nobody need be frightened.  We're all comfortable; ain't we, Mrs
Higden?'

'Sure and certain we are,' returned Betty.

'And there really is no hurry, you know,' said Mrs Boffin in a lower
voice.  'Take time to think of it, my good creature!'

'Don't you fear ME no more, ma'am,' said Betty; 'I thought of it for
good yesterday.  I don't know what come over me just now, but it'll
never come again.'

'Well, then, Johnny shall have more time to think of it,' returned
Mrs Boffin; 'the pretty child shall have time to get used to it.  And
you'll get him more used to it, if you think well of it; won't you?'

Betty undertook that, cheerfully and readily.

'Lor,' cried Mrs Boffin, looking radiantly about her, 'we want to
make everybody happy, not dismal!--And perhaps you wouldn't
mind letting me know how used to it you begin to get, and how it
all goes on?'

'I'll send Sloppy,' said Mrs Higden.

'And this gentleman who has come with me will pay him for his
trouble,' said Mrs Boffin.  'And Mr Sloppy, whenever you come to
my house, be sure you never go away without having had a good
dinner of meat, beer, vegetables, and pudding.'

This still further brightened the face of affairs; for, the highly
sympathetic Sloppy, first broadly staring and grinning, and then
roaring with laughter, Toddles and Poddles followed suit, and
Johnny trumped the trick.  T and P considering these favourable
circumstances for the resumption of that dramatic descent upon
Johnny, again came across-country hand-in-hand upon a
buccaneering expedition; and this having been fought out in the
chimney corner behind Mrs Higden's chair, with great valour on
both sides, those desperate pirates returned hand-in-hand to their
stools, across the dry bed of a mountain torrent.

'You must tell me what I can do for you, Betty my friend,' said Mrs
Boffin confidentially, 'if not to-day, next time.'

'Thank you all the same, ma'am, but I want nothing for myself.  I
can work.  I'm strong.  I can walk twenty mile if I'm put to it.'  Old
Betty was proud, and said it with a sparkle in her bright eyes.

'Yes, but there are some little comforts that you wouldn't be the
worse for,' returned Mrs Boffin.  'Bless ye, I wasn't born a lady any
more than you.'

'It seems to me,' said Betty, smiling, 'that you were born a lady,
and a true one, or there never was a lady born.  But I couldn't take
anything from you, my dear.  I never did take anything from any
one.  It ain't that I'm not grateful, but I love to earn it better.'

'Well, well!' returned Mrs Boffin.  'I only spoke of little things, or I
wouldn't have taken the liberty.'

Betty put her visitor's hand to her lips, in acknowledgment of the
delicate answer.  Wonderfully upright her figure was, and
wonderfully self-reliant her look, as, standing facing her visitor,
she explained herself further.

'If I could have kept the dear child, without the dread that's always
upon me of his coming to that fate I have spoken of, I could never
have parted with him, even to you.  For I love him, I love him, I
love him!  I love my husband long dead and gone, in him; I love
my children dead and gone, in him; I love my young and hopeful
days dead and gone, in him.  I couldn't sell that love, and look you
in your bright kind face.  It's a free gift.  I am in want of nothing.
When my strength fails me, if I can but die out quick and quiet, I
shall be quite content.  I have stood between my dead and that
shame I have spoken of; and it has been kept off from every one of
them.  Sewed into my gown,' with her hand upon her breast, 'is just
enough to lay me in the grave.  Only see that it's rightly spent, so
as I may rest free to the last from that cruelty and disgrace, and
you'll have done much more than a little thing for me, and all that
in this present world my heart is set upon.'

Mrs Betty Higden's visitor pressed her hand.  There was no more
breaking up of the strong old face into weakness.  My Lords and
Gentlemen and Honourable Boards, it really was as composed as
our own faces, and almost as dignified.

And now, Johnny was to be inveigled into occupying a temporary
position on Mrs Boffin's lap.  It was not until he had been piqued
into competition with the two diminutive Minders, by seeing them
successively raised to that post and retire from it without injury,
that he could be by any means induced to leave Mrs Betty Higden's
skirts; towards which he exhibited, even when in Mrs Boffin's
embrace, strong yearnings, spiritual and bodily; the former
expressed in a very gloomy visage, the latter in extended arms.
However, a general description of the toy-wonders lurking in Mr
Boffin's house, so far conciliated this worldly-minded orphan as to
induce him to stare at her frowningly, with a fist in his mouth, and
even at length to chuckle when a richly-caparisoned horse on
wheels, with a miraculous gift of cantering to cake-shops, was
mentioned.  This sound being taken up by the Minders, swelled
into a rapturous trio which gave general satisfaction.

So, the interview was considered very successful, and Mrs Boffin
was pleased, and all were satisfied.  Not least of all, Sloppy, who
undertook to conduct the visitors back by the best way to the Three
Magpies, and whom the hammer-headed young man much
despised.

This piece of business thus put in train, the Secretary drove Mrs
Boffin back to the Bower, and found employment for himself at the
new house until evening.  Whether, when evening came, he took a
way to his lodgings that led through fields, with any design of
finding Miss Bella Wilfer in those fields, is not so certain as that
she regularly walked there at that hour.

And, moreover, it is certain that there she was.

No longer in mourning, Miss Bella was dressed in as pretty
colours as she could muster.  There is no denying that she was as
pretty as they, and that she and the colours went very prettily
together.  She was reading as she walked, and of course it is to be
inferred, from her showing no knowledge of Mr Rokesmith's
approach, that she did not know he was approaching.

'Eh?' said Miss Bella, raising her eyes from her book, when he
stopped before her.  'Oh!  It's you.'

'Only I.  A fine evening!'

'Is it?' said Bella, looking coldly round.  'I suppose it is, now you
mention it.  I have not been thinking of the evening.'

'So intent upon your book?'

'Ye-e-es,' replied Bella, with a drawl of indifference.

'A love story, Miss Wilfer?'

'Oh dear no, or I shouldn't be reading it.  It's more about money
than anything else.'

'And does it say that money is better than anything?'

'Upon my word,' returned Bella, 'I forget what it says, but you can
find out for yourself if you like, Mr Rokesmith.  I don't want it any
more.'

The Secretary took the book--she had fluttered the leaves as if it
were a fan--and walked beside her.

'I am charged with a message for you, Miss Wilfer.'

'Impossible, I think!' said Bella, with another drawl.

'From Mrs Boffin.  She desired me to assure you of the pleasure
she has in finding that she will be ready to receive you in another
week or two at furthest.'

Bella turned her head towards him, with her prettily-insolent
eyebrows raised, and her eyelids drooping.  As much as to say,
'How did YOU come by the message, pray?'

'I have been waiting for an opportunity of telling you that I am Mr
Boffin's Secretary.'

'I am as wise as ever,' said Miss Bella, loftily, 'for I don't know
what a Secretary is.  Not that it signifies.'

'Not at all.'

A covert glance at her face, as he walked beside her, showed him
that she had not expected his ready assent to that proposition.

'Then are you going to be always there, Mr Rokesmith?' she
inquired, as if that would be a drawback.

'Always?  No.  Very much there?  Yes.'

'Dear me!' drawled Bella, in a tone of mortification.

'But my position there as Secretary, will be very different from
yours as guest.  You will know little or nothing about me.  I shall
transact the business: you will transact the pleasure.  I shall have
my salary to earn; you will have nothing to do but to enjoy and
attract.'

'Attract, sir?' said Bella, again with her eyebrows raised, and her
eyelids drooping.  'I don't understand you.'

Without replying on this point, Mr Rokesmith went on.

'Excuse me; when I first saw you in your black dress--'

('There!' was Miss Bella's mental exclamation.  'What did I say to
them at home?  Everybody noticed that ridiculous mourning.')

'When I first saw you in your black dress, I was at a loss to account
for that distinction between yourself and your family.  I hope it was
not impertinent to speculate upon it?'

'I hope not, I am sure,' said Miss Bella, haughtily.  'But you ought
to know best how you speculated upon it.'

Mr Rokesmith inclined his head in a deprecatory manner, and
went on.

'Since I have been entrusted with Mr Boffin's affairs, I have
necessarily come to understand the little mystery.  I venture to
remark that I feel persuaded that much of your loss may be
repaired.  I speak, of course, merely of wealth, Miss Wilfer.  The
loss of a perfect stranger, whose worth, or worthlessness, I cannot
estimate--nor you either--is beside the question.  But this excellent
gentleman and lady are so full of simplicity, so full of generosity,
so inclined towards you, and so desirous to--how shall I express
it?--to make amends for their good fortune, that you have only to
respond.'

As he watched her with another covert look, he saw a certain
ambitious triumph in her face which no assumed coldness could
conceal.

'As we have been brought under one roof by an accidental
combination of circumstances, which oddly extends itself to the
new relations before us, I have taken the liberty of saying these few
words.  You don't consider them intrusive I hope?' said the
Secretary with deference.

'Really, Mr Rokesmith, I can't say what I consider them,' returned
the young lady.  'They are perfectly new to me, and may be founded
altogether on your own imagination.'

'You will see.'

These same fields were opposite the Wilfer premises.  The discreet
Mrs Wilfer now looking out of window and beholding her
daughter in conference with her lodger, instantly tied up her head
and came out for a casual walk.

'I have been telling Miss Wilfer,' said John Rokesmith, as the
majestic lady came stalking up, 'that I have become, by a curious
chance, Mr Boffin's Secretary or man of business.'

'I have not,' returned Mrs Wilfer, waving her gloves in her chronic
state of dignity, and vague ill-usage, 'the honour of any intimate
acquaintance with Mr Boffin, and it is not for me to congratulate
that gentleman on the acquisition he has made.'

'A poor one enough,' said Rokesmith.

'Pardon me,' returned Mrs Wilfer, 'the merits of Mr Boffin may be
highly distinguished--may be more distinguished than the
countenance of Mrs Boffin would imply--but it were the insanity of
humility to deem him worthy of a better assistant.'

'You are very good.  I have also been telling Miss Wilfer that she is
expected very shortly at the new residence in town.'

'Having tacitly consented,' said Mrs Wilfer, with a grand shrug of
her shoulders, and another wave of her gloves, 'to my child's
acceptance of the proffered attentions of Mrs Boffin, I interpose no
objection.'

Here Miss Bella offered the remonstrance: 'Don't talk nonsense,
ma, please.'

'Peace!' said Mrs Wilfer.

'No, ma, I am not going to be made so absurd.  Interposing
objections!'

'I say,' repeated Mrs Wilfer, with a vast access of grandeur, 'that I
am NOT going to interpose objections.  If Mrs Boffin (to whose
countenance no disciple of Lavater could possibly for a single
moment subscribe),' with a shiver, 'seeks to illuminate her new
residence in town with the attractions of a child of mine, I am
content that she should be favoured by the company of a child of
mine.'

'You use the word, ma'am, I have myself used,' said Rokesmith,
with a glance at Bella, 'when you speak of Miss Wilfer's attractions
there.'

'Pardon me,' returned Mrs Wilfer, with dreadful solemnity, 'but I
had not finished.'

'Pray excuse me.'

'I was about to say,' pursued Mrs Wilfer, who clearly had not had
the faintest idea of saying anything more: 'that when I use the term
attractions, I do so with the qualification that I do not mean it in
any way whatever.'

The excellent lady delivered this luminous elucidation of her views
with an air of greatly obliging her hearers, and greatly
distinguishing herself.  Whereat Miss Bella laughed a scornful
little laugh and said:

'Quite enough about this, I am sure, on all sides.  Have the
goodness, Mr Rokesmith, to give my love to Mrs Boffin--'

'Pardon me!' cried Mrs Wilfer.  'Compliments.'

'Love!' repeated Bella, with a little stamp of her foot.

'No!' said Mrs Wilfer, monotonously.  'Compliments.'

('Say Miss Wilfer's love, and Mrs Wilfer's compliments,' the
Secretary proposed, as a compromise.)

'And I shall be very glad to come when she is ready for me.  The
sooner, the better.'

'One last word, Bella,' said Mrs Wilfer, 'before descending to the
family apartment.  I trust that as a child of mine you will ever be
sensible that it will be graceful in you, when associating with Mr
and Mrs Boffin upon equal terms, to remember that the Secretary,
Mr Rokesmith, as your father's lodger, has a claim on your good
word.'

The condescension with which Mrs Wilfer delivered this
proclamation of patronage, was as wonderful as the swiftness with
which the lodger had lost caste in the Secretary.  He smiled as the
mother retired down stairs; but his face fell, as the daughter
followed.

'So insolent, so trivial, so capricious, so mercenary, so careless, so
hard to touch, so hard to turn!' he said, bitterly.

And added as he went upstairs.  'And yet so pretty, so pretty!'

And added presently, as he walked to and fro in his room.  'And if
she knew!'

She knew that he was shaking the house by his walking to and fro;
and she declared it another of the miseries of being poor, that you
couldn't get rid of a haunting Secretary, stump--stump--stumping
overhead in the dark, like a Ghost.



Chapter 17

A DISMAL SWAMP


And now, in the blooming summer days, behold Mr and Mrs
Boffin established in the eminently aristocratic family mansion,
and behold all manner of crawling, creeping, fluttering, and
buzzing creatures, attracted by the gold dust of the Golden
Dustman!

Foremost among those leaving cards at the eminently aristocratic
door before it is quite painted, are the Veneerings: out of breath,
one might imagine, from the impetuosity of their rush to the
eminently aristocratic steps.  One copper-plate Mrs Veneering,
two copper-plate Mr Veneerings, and a connubial copper-plate Mr
and Mrs Veneering, requesting the honour of Mr and Mrs Boffin's
company at dinner with the utmost Analytical solemnities.  The
enchanting Lady Tippins leaves a card.  Twemlow leaves cards.  A
tall custard-coloured phaeton tooling up in a solemn manner leaves
four cards, to wit, a couple of Mr Podsnaps, a Mrs Podsnap, and a
Miss Podsnap.  All the world and his wife and daughter leave
cards.  Sometimes the world's wife has so many daughters, that her
card reads rather like a Miscellaneous Lot at an Auction;
comprising Mrs Tapkins, Miss Tapkins, Miss Frederica Tapkins,
Miss Antonina Tapkins, Miss Malvina Tapkins, and Miss
Euphemia Tapkins; at the same time, the same lady leaves the card
of Mrs Henry George Alfred Swoshle, NEE Tapkins; also, a card,
Mrs Tapkins at Home, Wednesdays, Music, Portland Place.

Miss Bella Wilfer becomes an inmate, for an indefinite period, of
the eminently aristocratic dwelling.  Mrs Boffin bears Miss Bella
away to her Milliner's and Dressmaker's, and she gets beautifully
dressed.  The Veneerings find with swift remorse that they have
omitted to invite Miss Bella Wilfer.  One Mrs Veneering and one
Mr and Mrs Veneering requesting that additional honour, instantly
do penance in white cardboard on the hall table.  Mrs Tapkins
likewise discovers her omission, and with promptitude repairs it;
for herself; for Miss Tapkins, for Miss Frederica Tapkins, for Miss
Antonina Tapkins, for Miss Malvina Tapkins, and for Miss
Euphemia Tapkins.  Likewise, for Mrs Henry George Alfred
Swoshle NEE Tapkins.  Likewise, for Mrs Tapkins at Home,
Wednesdays, Music, Portland Place.

Tradesmen's books hunger, and tradesmen's mouths water, for the
gold dust of the Golden Dustman.  As Mrs Boffin and Miss Wilfer
drive out, or as Mr Boffin walks out at his jog-trot pace, the
fishmonger pulls off his hat with an air of reverence founded on
conviction.  His men cleanse their fingers on their woollen aprons
before presuming to touch their foreheads to Mr Boffin or Lady.
The gaping salmon and the golden mullet lying on the slab seem to
turn up their eyes sideways, as they would turn up their hands if
they had any, in worshipping admiration.  The butcher, though a
portly and a prosperous man, doesn't know what to do with
himself; so anxious is he to express humility when discovered by
the passing Boffins taking the air in a mutton grove.  Presents are
made to the Boffin servants, and bland strangers with business-
cards meeting said servants in the street, offer hypothetical
corruption.  As, 'Supposing I was to be favoured with an order
from Mr Boffin, my dear friend, it would be worth my while'--to do
a certain thing that I hope might not prove wholly disagreeable to
your feelings.

But no one knows so well as the Secretary, who opens and reads
the letters, what a set is made at the man marked by a stroke of
notoriety.  Oh the varieties of dust for ocular use, offered in
exchange for the gold dust of the Golden Dustman!  Fifty-seven
churches to be erected with half-crowns, forty-two parsonage
houses to be repaired with shillings, seven-and-twenty organs to be
built with halfpence, twelve hundred children to be brought up on
postage stamps.  Not that a half-crown, shilling, halfpenny, or
postage stamp, would be particularly acceptable from Mr Boffin,
but that it is so obvious he is the man to make up the deficiency.
And then the charities, my Christian brother!  And mostly in
difficulties, yet mostly lavish, too, in the expensive articles of print
and paper.  Large fat private double letter, sealed with ducal
coronet.  'Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire.  My Dear Sir,--Having
consented to preside at the forthcoming Annual Dinner of the
Family Party Fund, and feeling deeply impressed with the
immense usefulness of that noble Institution and the great
importance of its being supported by a List of Stewards that shall
prove to the public the interest taken in it by popular and
distinguished men, I have undertaken to ask you to become a
Steward on that occasion.  Soliciting your favourable reply before
the 14th instant, I am, My Dear Sir, Your faithful Servant,
LINSEED.  P.S.  The Steward's fee is limited to three Guineas.'
Friendly this, on the part of the Duke of Linseed (and thoughtful in
the postscript), only lithographed by the hundred and presenting
but a pale individuality of an address to Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire, in quite another hand.  It takes two noble Earls and a
Viscount, combined, to inform Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, in an
equally flattering manner, that an estimable lady in the West of
England has offered to present a purse containing twenty pounds,
to the Society for Granting Annuities to Unassuming Members of
the Middle Classes, if twenty individuals will previously present
purses of one hundred pounds each.  And those benevolent
noblemen very kindly point out that if Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,
should wish to present two or more purses, it will not be
inconsistent with the design of the estimable lady in the West of
England, provided each purse be coupled with the name of some
member of his honoured and respected family.

These are the corporate beggars.  But there are, besides, the
individual beggars; and how does the heart of the Secretary fail
him when he has to cope with THEM!  And they must be coped
with to some extent, because they all enclose documents (they call
their scraps documents; but they are, as to papers deserving the
name, what minced veal is to a calf), the non-return of which
would be their ruin.  That is say, they are utterly ruined now, but
they would be more utterly ruined then.  Among these
correspondents are several daughters of general officers, long
accustomed to every luxury of life (except spelling), who little
thought, when their gallant fathers waged war in the Peninsula,
that they would ever have to appeal to those whom Providence, in
its inscrutable wisdom, has blessed with untold gold, and from
among whom they select the name of Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,
for a maiden effort in this wise, understanding that he has such a
heart as never was.  The Secretary learns, too, that confidence
between man and wife would seem to obtain but rarely when virtue
is in distress, so numerous are the wives who take up their pens to
ask Mr Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted
husbands, who would never permit it; while, on the other hand, so
numerous are the husbands who take up their pens to ask Mr
Boffin for money without the knowledge of their devoted wives,
who would instantly go out of their senses if they had the least
suspicion of the circumstance.  There are the inspired beggars, too.
These were sitting, only yesterday evening, musing over a fragment
of candle which must soon go out and leave them in the dark for
the rest of their nights, when surely some Angel whispered the
name of Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, to their souls, imparting rays
of hope, nay confidence, to which they had long been strangers!
Akin to these are the suggestively-befriended beggars.  They were
partaking of a cold potato and water by the flickering and gloomy
light of a lucifer-match, in their lodgings (rent considerably in
arrear, and heartless landlady threatening expulsion 'like a dog'
into the streets), when a gifted friend happening to look in, said,
'Write immediately to Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire,' and would take
no denial.  There are the nobly independent beggars too.  These, in
the days of their abundance, ever regarded gold as dross, and have
not yet got over that only impediment in the way of their amassing
wealth, but they want no dross from Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire;
No, Mr Boffin; the world may term it pride, paltry pride if you will,
but they wouldn't take it if you offered it; a loan, sir--for fourteen
weeks to the day, interest calculated at the rate of five per cent per
annum, to be bestowed upon any charitable institution you may
name--is all they want of you, and if you have the meanness to
refuse it, count on being despised by these great spirits.  There are
the beggars of punctual business-habits too.  These will make an
end of themselves at a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesday, if no Post-
office order is in the interim received from Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire; arriving after a quarter to one P.M. on Tuesday, it need
not be sent, as they will then (having made an exact memorandum
of the heartless circumstances) be 'cold in death.'  There are the
beggars on horseback too, in another sense from the sense of the
proverb.  These are mounted and ready to start on the highway to
affluence.  The goal is before them, the road is in the best
condition, their spurs are on, the steed is willing, but, at the last
moment, for want of some special thing--a clock, a violin, an
astronomical telescope, an electrifying machine--they must
dismount for ever, unless they receive its equivalent in money from
Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire.  Less given to detail are the beggars
who make sporting ventures.  These, usually to be addressed in
reply under initials at a country post-office, inquire in feminine
hands, Dare one who cannot disclose herself to Nicodemus Boffin,
Esquire, but whose name might startle him were it revealed, solicit
the immediate advance of two hundred pounds from unexpected
riches exercising their noblest privilege in the trust of a common
humanity?

In such a Dismal Swamp does the new house stand, and through it
does the Secretary daily struggle breast-high.  Not to mention all
the people alive who have made inventions that won't act, and all
the jobbers who job in all the jobberies jobbed; though these may
be regarded as the Alligators of the Dismal Swamp, and are
always lying by to drag the Golden Dustman under.

But the old house.  There are no designs against the Golden
Dustman there?  There are no fish of the shark tribe in the Bower
waters?  Perhaps not.  Still, Wegg is established there, and would
seem, judged by his secret proceedings, to cherish a notion of
making a discovery.  For, when a man with a wooden leg lies
prone on his stomach to peep under bedsteads; and hops up
ladders, like some extinct bird, to survey the tops of presses and
cupboards; and provides himself an iron rod which he is always
poking and prodding into dust-mounds; the probability is that he
expects to find something.



BOOK THE SECOND

BIRDS OF A FEATHER



Chapter 1

OF AN EDUCATIONAL CHARACTER


The school at which young Charley Hexam had first learned from
a book--the streets being, for pupils of his degree, the great
Preparatory Establishment in which very much that is never
unlearned is learned without and before book--was a miserable
loft in an unsavoury yard.  Its atmosphere was oppressive and
disagreeable; it was crowded, noisy, and confusing; half the pupils
dropped asleep, or fell into a state of waking stupefaction; the
other half kept them in either condition by maintaining a
monotonous droning noise, as if they were performing, out of time
and tune, on a ruder sort of bagpipe.  The teachers, animated
solely by good intentions, had no idea of execution, and a
lamentable jumble was the upshot of their kind endeavours.

It was a school for all ages, and for both sexes.  The latter were
kept apart, and the former were partitioned off into square
assortments.  But, all the place was pervaded by a grimly
ludicrous pretence that every pupil was childish and innocent.
This pretence, much favoured by the lady-visitors, led to the
ghastliest absurdities.  Young women old in the vices of the
commonest and worst life, were expected to profess themselves
enthralled by the good child's book, the Adventures of Little
Margery, who resided in the village cottage by the mill; severely
reproved and morally squashed the miller, when she was five and
he was fifty; divided her porridge with singing birds; denied
herself a new nankeen bonnet, on the ground that the turnips did
not wear nankeen bonnets, neither did the sheep who ate them;
who plaited straw and delivered the dreariest orations to all
comers, at all sorts of unseasonable times.  So, unwieldy young
dredgers and hulking mudlarks were referred to the experiences of
Thomas Twopence, who, having resolved not to rob (under
circumstances of uncommon atrocity) his particular friend and
benefactor, of eighteenpence, presently came into supernatural
possession of three and sixpence, and lived a shining light ever
afterwards.  (Note, that the benefactor came to no good.)  Several
swaggering sinners had written their own biographies in the same
strain; it always appearing from the lessons of those very boastful
persons, that you were to do good, not because it WAS good, but
because you were to make a good thing of it.  Contrariwise, the
adult pupils were taught to read (if they could learn) out of the
New Testament; and by dint of stumbling over the syllables and
keeping their bewildered eyes on the particular syllables coming
round to their turn, were as absolutely ignorant of the sublime
history, as if they had never seen or heard of it.  An exceedingly
and confoundingly perplexing jumble of a school, in fact, where
black spirits and grey, red spirits and white, jumbled jumbled
jumbled jumbled, jumbled every night.  And particularly every
Sunday night.  For then, an inclined plane of unfortunate infants
would be handed over to the prosiest and worst of all the teachers
with good intentions, whom nobody older would endure.  Who,
taking his stand on the floor before them as chief executioner,
would be attended by a conventional volunteer boy as
executioner's assistant.  When and where it first became the
conventional system that a weary or inattentive infant in a class
must have its face smoothed downward with a hot hand, or when
and where the conventional volunteer boy first beheld such
system in operation, and became inflamed with a sacred zeal to
administer it, matters not.  It was the function of the chief
executioner to hold forth, and it was the function of the acolyte to
dart at sleeping infants, yawning infants, restless infants,
whimpering infants, and smooth their wretched faces; sometimes
with one hand, as if he were anointing them for a whisker;
sometimes with both hands, applied after the fashion of blinkers.
And so the jumble would be in action in this department for a
mortal hour; the exponent drawling on to My Dearert
Childerrenerr, let us say, for example, about the beautiful coming
to the Sepulchre; and repeating the word Sepulchre (commonly
used among infants) five hundred times, and never once hinting
what it meant; the conventional boy smoothing away right and
left, as an infallible commentary; the whole hot-bed of flushed and
exhausted infants exchanging measles, rashes, whooping-cough,
fever, and stomach disorders, as if they were assembled in High
Market for the purpose.

Even in this temple of good intentions, an exceptionally sharp boy
exceptionally determined to learn, could learn something, and,
having learned it, could impart it much better than the teachers; as
being more knowing than they, and not at the disadvantage in
which they stood towards the shrewder pupils.  In this way it had
come about that Charley Hexam had risen in the jumble, taught in
the jumble, and been received from the jumble into a better
school.

'So you want to go and see your sister, Hexam?'

'If you please, Mr Headstone.'

'I have half a mind to go with you.  Where does your sister live?'

'Why, she is not settled yet, Mr Headstone.  I'd rather you didn't
see her till she is settled, if it was all the same to you.'

'Look here, Hexam.' Mr Bradley Headstone, highly certificated
stipendiary schoolmaster, drew his right forefinger through one of
the buttonholes of the boy's coat, and looked at it attentively.  'I
hope your sister may be good company for you?'

'Why do you doubt it, Mr Headstone?'

'I did not say I doubted it.'

'No, sir; you didn't say so.'

Bradley Headstone looked at his finger again, took it out of the
buttonhole and looked at it closer, bit the side of it and looked at it
again.

'You see, Hexam, you will be one of us.  In good time you are sure
to pass a creditable examination and become one of us.  Then the
question is--'

The boy waited so long for the question, while the schoolmaster
looked at a new side of his finger, and bit it, and looked at it again,
that at length the boy repeated:

'The question is, sir--?'

'Whether you had not better leave well alone.'

'Is it well to leave my sister alone, Mr Headstone?'

'I do not say so, because I do not know.  I put it to you.  I ask you
to think of it.  I want you to consider.  You know how well you
are doing here.'

'After all, she got me here,' said the boy, with a struggle.

'Perceiving the necessity of it,' acquiesced the schoolmaster, 'and
making up her mind fully to the separation.  Yes.'

The boy, with a return of that former reluctance or struggle or
whatever it was, seemed to debate with himself.  At length he
said, raising his eyes to the master's face:

'I wish you'd come with me and see her, Mr Headstone, though
she is not settled.  I wish you'd come with me, and take her in the
rough, and judge her for yourself.'

'You are sure you would not like,' asked the schoolmaster, 'to
prepare her?'

'My sister Lizzie,' said the boy, proudly, 'wants no preparing, Mr
Headstone.  What she is, she is, and shows herself to be.  There's
no pretending about my sister.'

His confidence in her, sat more easily upon him than the
indecision with which he had twice contended.  It was his better
nature to be true to her, if it were his worse nature to be wholly
selfish.  And as yet the better nature had the stronger hold.

'Well, I can spare the evening,' said the schoolmaster.  'I am ready
to walk with you.'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone.  And I am ready to go.'

Bradley Headstone, in his decent black coat and waistcoat, and
decent white shirt, and decent formal black tie, and decent
pantaloons of pepper and salt, with his decent silver watch in his
pocket and its decent hair-guard round his neck, looked a
thoroughly decent young man of six-and-twenty.  He was never
seen in any other dress, and yet there was a certain stiffness in his
manner of wearing this, as if there were a want of adaptation
between him and it, recalling some mechanics in their holiday
clothes.  He had acquired mechanically a great store of teacher's
knowledge.  He could do mental arithmetic mechanically, sing at
sight mechanically, blow various wind instruments mechanically,
even play the great church organ mechanically.  From his early
childhood up, his mind had been a place of mechanical stowage.
The arrangement of his wholesale warehouse, so that it might be
always ready to meet the demands of retail dealers history here,
geography there, astronomy to the right, political economy to the
left--natural history, the physical sciences, figures, music, the
lower mathematics, and what not, all in their several places--this
care had imparted to his countenance a look of care; while the
habit of questioning and being questioned had given him a
suspicious manner, or a manner that would be better described as
one of lying in wait.  There was a kind of settled trouble in the
face.  It was the face belonging to a naturally slow or inattentive
intellect that had toiled hard to get what it had won, and that had
to hold it now that it was gotten.  He always seemed to be uneasy
lest anything should be missing from his mental warehouse, and
taking stock to assure himself.

Suppression of so much to make room for so much, had given him
a constrained manner, over and above.  Yet there was enough of
what was animal, and of what was fiery (though smouldering), still
visible in him, to suggest that if young Bradley Headstone, when a
pauper lad, had chanced to be told off for the sea, he would not
have been the last man in a ship's crew.  Regarding that origin of
his, he was proud, moody, and sullen, desiring it to be forgotten.
And few people knew of it.

In some visits to the Jumble his attention had been attracted to this
boy Hexam.  An undeniable boy for a pupil-teacher; an
undeniable boy to do credit to the master who should bring him
on.  Combined with this consideration, there may have been some
thought of the pauper lad now never to be mentioned.  Be that
how it might, he had with pains gradually worked the boy into his
own school, and procured him some offices to discharge there,
which were repaid with food and lodging.  Such were the
circumstances that had brought together, Bradley Headstone and
young Charley Hexam that autumn evening.  Autumn, because
full half a year had come and gone since the bird of prey lay dead
upon the river-shore.

The schools--for they were twofold, as the sexes--were down in
that district of the flat country tending to the Thames, where Kent
and Surrey meet, and where the railways still bestride the market-
gardens that will soon die under them.  The schools were newly
built, and there were so many like them all over the country, that
one might have thought the whole were but one restless edifice
with the locomotive gift of Aladdin's palace.  They were in a
neighbourhood which looked like a toy neighbourhood taken in
blocks out of a box by a child of particularly incoherent mind, and
set up anyhow; here, one side of a new street; there, a large
solitary public-house facing nowhere; here, another unfinished
street already in ruins; there, a church; here, an immense new
warehouse; there, a dilapidated old country villa; then, a medley
of black ditch, sparkling cucumber-frame, rank field, richly
cultivated kitchen-garden, brick viaduct, arch-spanned canal, and
disorder of frowziness and fog.  As if the child had given the table
a kick, and gone to sleep.

But, even among school-buildings, school-teachers, and school-
pupils, all according to pattern and all engendered in the light of
the latest Gospel according to Monotony, the older pattern into
which so many fortunes have been shaped for good and evil,
comes out.  It came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress,
watering her flowers, as Mr Bradley Headstone walked forth.  It
came out in Miss Peecher the schoolmistress, watering the flowers
in the little dusty bit of garden attached to her small official
residence, with little windows like the eyes in needles, and little
doors like the covers of school-books.

Small, shining, neat, methodical, and buxom was Miss Peecher;
cherry-cheeked and tuneful of voice.  A little pincushion, a little
housewife, a little book, a little workbox, a little set of tables and
weights and measures, and a little woman, all in one.  She could
write a little essay on any subject, exactly a slate long, beginning
at the left-hand top of one side and ending at the right-hand
bottom of the other, and the essay should be strictly according to
rule.  If Mr Bradley Headstone had addressed a written proposal
of marriage to her, she would probably have replied in a complete
little essay on the theme exactly a slate long, but would certainly
have replied Yes.  For she loved him.  The decent hair-guard that
went round his neck and took care of his decent silver watch was
an object of envy to her.  So would Miss Peecher have gone round
his neck and taken care of him.  Of him, insensible.  Because he
did not love Miss Peecher.

Miss Peecher's favourite pupil, who assisted her in her little
household, was in attendance with a can of water to replenish her
little watering-pot, and sufficiently divined the state of Miss
Peecher's affections to feel it necessary that she herself should
love young Charley Hexam.  So, there was a double palpitation
among the double stocks and double wall-flowers, when the
master and the boy looked over the little gate.

'A fine evening, Miss Peecher,' said the Master.

'A very fine evening, Mr Headstone,' said Miss Peecher.  'Are you
taking a walk?'

'Hexam and I are going to take a long walk.'

'Charming weather,' remarked Miss Peecher, FOR a long walk.'

'Ours is rather on business than mere pleasure,' said the Master.
Miss Peecher inverting her watering-pot, and very carefully
shaking out the few last drops over a flower, as if there were some
special virtue in them which would make it a Jack's beanstalk
before morning, called for replenishment to her pupil, who had
been speaking to the boy.

'Good-night, Miss Peecher,' said the Master.

'Good-night, Mr Headstone,' said the Mistress.

The pupil had been, in her state of pupilage, so imbued with the
class-custom of stretching out an arm, as if to hail a cab or
omnibus, whenever she found she had an observation on hand to
offer to Miss Peecher, that she often did it in their domestic
relations; and she did it now.

'Well, Mary Anne?' said Miss Peecher.

'If you please, ma'am, Hexam said they were going to see his
sister.'

'But that can't be, I think,' returned Miss Peecher: 'because Mr
Headstone can have no business with HER.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'If you please, ma'am, perhaps it's Hexam's business?'

'That may be,' said Miss Peecher.  'I didn't think of that.  Not that
it matters at all.'

Mary Anne again hailed.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'They say she's very handsome.'

'Oh, Mary Anne, Mary Anne!' returned Miss Peecher, slightly
colouring and shaking her head, a little out of humour; 'how often
have I told you not to use that vague expression, not to speak in
that general way?  When you say THEY say, what do you mean?
Part of speech They?'

Mary Anne hooked her right arm behind her in her left hand, as
being under examination, and replied:

'Personal pronoun.'

'Person, They?'

'Third person.'

'Number, They?'

'Plural number.'

'Then how many do you mean, Mary Anne?  Two?  Or more?'

'I beg your pardon, ma'am,' said Mary Anne, disconcerted now she
came to think of it; 'but I don't know that I mean more than her
brother himself.'  As she said it, she unhooked her arm.

'I felt convinced of it,' returned Miss Peecher, smiling again.  'Now
pray, Mary Anne, be careful another time.  He says is very
different from they say, remember.  Difference between he says
and they say?  Give it me.'

Mary Anne immediately hooked her right arm behind her in her
left hand--an attitude absolutely necessary to the situation--and
replied: 'One is indicative mood, present tense, third person
singular, verb active to say.  Other is indicative mood, present
tense, third person plural, verb active to say.'

'Why verb active, Mary Anne?'

'Because it takes a pronoun after it in the objective case, Miss
Peecher.'

'Very good indeed,' remarked Miss Peecher, with encouragement.
'In fact, could not be better.  Don't forget to apply it, another time,
Mary Anne.'  This said, Miss Peecher finished the watering of her
flowers, and went into her little official residence, and took a
refresher of the principal rivers and mountains of the world, their
breadths, depths, and heights, before settling the measurements of
the body of a dress for her own personal occupation.

Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam duly got to the Surrey
side of Westminster Bridge, and crossed the bridge, and made
along the Middlesex shore towards Millbank.  In this region are a
certain little street called Church Street, and a certain little blind
square, called Smith Square, in the centre of which last retreat is a
very hideous church with four towers at the four corners,
generally resembling some petrified monster, frightful and
gigantic, on its back with its legs in the air.  They found a tree near
by in a corner, and a blacksmith's forge, and a timber yard, and a
dealer's in old iron.  What a rusty portion of a boiler and a great
iron wheel or so meant by lying half-buried in the dealer's fore-
court, nobody seemed to know or to want to know.  Like the
Miller of questionable jollity in the song, They cared for Nobody,
no not they, and Nobody cared for them.

After making the round of this place, and noting that there was a
deadly kind of repose on it, more as though it had taken laudanum
than fallen into a natural rest, they stopped at the point where the
street and the square joined, and where there were some little
quiet houses in a row.  To these Charley Hexam finally led the
way, and at one of these stopped.

'This must be where my sister lives, sir.  This is where she came
for a temporary lodging, soon after father's death.'

'How often have you seen her since?'

'Why, only twice, sir,' returned the boy, with his former
reluctance; 'but that's as much her doing as mine.'

'How does she support herself?'

'She was always a fair needlewoman, and she keeps the stockroom
of a seaman's outfitter.'

'Does she ever work at her own lodging here?'

'Sometimes; but her regular hours and regular occupation are at
their place of business, I believe, sir.  This is the number.'

The boy knocked at a door, and the door promptly opened with a
spring and a click.  A parlour door within a small entry stood
open, and disclosed a child--a dwarf--a girl--a something--sitting
on a little low old-fashioned arm-chair, which had a kind of little
working bench before it.

'I can't get up,' said the child, 'because my back's bad, and my legs
are queer.  But I'm the person of the house.'

'Who else is at home?' asked Charley Hexam, staring.

'Nobody's at home at present,' returned the child, with a glib
assertion of her dignity, 'except the person of the house.  What did
you want, young man?'

'I wanted to see my sister.'

'Many young men have sisters,' returned the child.  'Give me your
name, young man?'

The queer little figure, and the queer but not ugly little face, with
its bright grey eyes, were so sharp, that the sharpness of the
manner seemed unavoidable.  As if, being turned out of that
mould, it must be sharp.

'Hexam is my name.'

'Ah, indeed?' said the person of the house.  'I thought it might be.
Your sister will be in, in about a quarter of an hour.  I am very
fond of your sister.  She's my particular friend.  Take a seat.  And
this gentleman's name?'

'Mr Headstone, my schoolmaster.'

'Take a seat.  And would you please to shut the street door first?  I
can't very well do it myself; because my back's so bad, and my
legs are so queer.'

They complied in silence, and the little figure went on with its
work of gumming or gluing together with a camel's-hair brush
certain pieces of cardboard and thin wood, previously cut into
various shapes.  The scissors and knives upon the bench showed
that the child herself had cut them; and the bright scraps of velvet
and silk and ribbon also strewn upon the bench showed that when
duly stuffed (and stuffing too was there), she was to cover them
smartly.  The dexterity of her nimble fingers was remarkable, and,
as she brought two thin edges accurately together by giving them a
little bite, she would glance at the visitors out of the corners of her
grey eyes with a look that out-sharpened all her other sharpness.

'You can't tell me the name of my trade, I'll be bound,' she said,
after taking several of these observations.

'You make pincushions,' said Charley.

'What else do I make?'

'Pen-wipers,' said Bradley Headstone.

'Ha! ha!  What else do I make?  You're a schoolmaster, but you
can't tell me.'

'You do something,' he returned, pointing to a corner of the little
bench, 'with straw; but I don't know what.'

'Well done you!' cried the person of the house.  'I only make
pincushions and pen-wipers, to use up my waste.  But my straw
really does belong to my business.  Try again.  What do I make
with my straw?'

'Dinner-mats?'

'A schoolmaster, and says dinner-mats!  I'll give you a clue to my
trade, in a game of forfeits.  I love my love with a B because she's
Beautiful; I hate my love with a B because she is Brazen; I took
her to the sign of the Blue Boar, and I treated her with Bonnets;
her name's Bouncer, and she lives in Bedlam.--Now, what do I
make with my straw?'

'Ladies' bonnets?'

'Fine ladies',' said the person of the house, nodding assent.  'Dolls'.
I'm a Doll's Dressmaker.'

'I hope it's a good business?'

The person of the house shrugged her shoulders and shook her
head.  'No.  Poorly paid.  And I'm often so pressed for time!  I had
a doll married, last week, and was obliged to work all night.  And
it's not good for me, on account of my back being so bad and my
legs so queer.'

They looked at the little creature with a wonder that did not
diminish, and the schoolmaster said: 'I am sorry your fine ladies
are so inconsiderate.'

'It's the way with them,' said the person of the house, shrugging
her shoulders again.  'And they take no care of their clothes, and
they never keep to the same fashions a month.  I work for a doll
with three daughters.  Bless you, she's enough to ruin her
husband!'  The person of the house gave a weird little laugh here,
and gave them another look out of the corners of her eyes.  She
had an elfin chin that was capable of great expression; and
whenever she gave this look, she hitched this chin up.  As if her
eyes and her chin worked together on the same wires.

'Are you always as busy as you are now?'

'Busier.  I'm slack just now.  I finished a large mourning order the
day before yesterday.  Doll I work for, lost a canary-bird.'  The
person of the house gave another little laugh, and then nodded her
head several times, as who should moralize, 'Oh this world, this
world!'

'Are you alone all day?' asked Bradley Headstone.  'Don't any of
the neighbouring children--?'

'Ah, lud!' cried the person of the house, with a little scream, as if
the word had pricked her.  'Don't talk of children.  I can't bear
children.  I know their tricks and their manners.'  She said this with
an angry little shake of her tight fist close before her eyes.

Perhaps it scarcely required the teacher-habit, to perceive that the
doll's dressmaker was inclined to be bitter on the difference
between herself and other children.  But both master and pupil
understood it so.

'Always running about and screeching, always playing and
fighting, always skip-skip-skipping on the pavement and chalking
it for their games!  Oh! I know their tricks and their manners!'
Shaking the little fist as before.  'And that's not all.  Ever so often
calling names in through a person's keyhole, and imitating a
person's back and legs.  Oh! I know their tricks and their manners.
And I'll tell you what I'd do, to punish 'em.  There's doors under
the church in the Square--black doors, leading into black vaults.
Well!  I'd open one of those doors, and I'd cram 'em all in, and
then I'd lock the door and through the keyhole I'd blow in pepper.'

'What would be the good of blowing in pepper?' asked Charley
Hexam.

'To set 'em sneezing,' said the person of the house, 'and make their
eyes water.  And when they were all sneezing and inflamed, I'd
mock 'em through the keyhole.  Just as they, with their tricks and
their manners, mock a person through a person's keyhole!'

An uncommonly emphatic shake of her little fist close before her
eyes, seemed to ease the mind of the person of the house; for she
added with recovered composure, 'No, no, no.  No children for
me.  Give me grown-ups.'

It was difficult to guess the age of this strange creature, for her
poor figure furnished no clue to it, and her face was at once so
young and so old.  Twelve, or at the most thirteen, might be near
the mark.

'I always did like grown-ups,' she went on, 'and always kept
company with them.  So sensible.  Sit so quiet.  Don't go prancing
and capering about!  And I mean always to keep among none but
grown-ups till I marry.  I suppose I must make up my mind to
marry, one of these days.'

She listened to a step outside that caught her ear, and there was a
soft knock at the door.  Pulling at a handle within her reach, she
said, with a pleased laugh: 'Now here, for instance, is a grown-up
that's my particular friend!' and Lizzie Hexam in a black dress
entered the room.

'Charley!  You!'

Taking him to her arms in the old way--of which he seemed a little
ashamed--she saw no one else.

'There, there, there, Liz, all right my dear.  See!  Here's Mr
Headstone come with me.'

Her eyes met those of the schoolmaster, who had evidently
expected to see a very different sort of person, and a murmured
word or two of salutation passed between them.  She was a little
flurried by the unexpected visit, and the schoolmaster was not at
his ease.  But he never was, quite.

'I told Mr Headstone you were not settled, Liz, but he was so kind
as to take an interest in coming, and so I brought him.  How well
you look!'

Bradley seemed to think so.

'Ah!  Don't she, don't she?' cried the person of the house, resuming
her occupation, though the twilight was falling fast.  'I believe you
she does!  But go on with your chat, one and all:

     You one two three,
     My com-pa-nie,
     And don't mind me.'

--pointing this impromptu rhyme with three points of her thin fore-
finger.

'I didn't expect a visit from you, Charley,' said his sister.  'I
supposed that if you wanted to see me you would have sent to me,
appointing me to come somewhere near the school, as I did last
time.  I saw my brother near the school, sir,' to Bradley
Headstone, 'because it's easier for me to go there, than for him to
come here.  I work about midway between the two places.'

'You don't see much of one another,' said Bradley, not improving
in respect of ease.

'No.'  With a rather sad shake of her head.  'Charley always does
well, Mr Headstone?'

'He could not do better.  I regard his course as quite plain before
him.'

'I hoped so.  I am so thankful.  So well done of you, Charley dear!
It is better for me not to come (except when he wants me)
between him and his prospects.  You think so, Mr Headstone?'

Conscious that his pupil-teacher was looking for his answer, that
he himself had suggested the boy's keeping aloof from this sister,
now seen for the first time face to face, Bradley Headstone
stammered:

'Your brother is very much occupied, you know.  He has to work
hard.  One cannot but say that the less his attention is diverted
from his work, the better for his future.  When he shall have
established himself, why then--it will be another thing then.'

Lizzie shook her head again, and returned, with a quiet smile: 'I
always advised him as you advise him.  Did I not, Charley?'

'Well, never mind that now,' said the boy.  'How are you getting
on?'

'Very well, Charley.  I want for nothing.'

'You have your own room here?'

'Oh yes.  Upstairs.  And it's quiet, and pleasant, and airy.'

'And she always has the use of this room for visitors,' said the
person of the house, screwing up one of her little bony fists, like
an opera-glass, and looking through it, with her eyes and her chin
in that quaint accordance.  'Always this room for visitors; haven't
you, Lizzie dear?'

It happened that Bradley Headstone noticed a very slight action of
Lizzie Hexam's hand, as though it checked the doll's dressmaker.
And it happened that the latter noticed him in the same instant; for
she made a double eyeglass of her two hands, looked at him
through it, and cried, with a waggish shake of her head: 'Aha!
Caught you spying, did I?'

It might have fallen out so, any way; but Bradley Headstone also
noticed that immediately after this, Lizzie, who had not taken off
her bonnet, rather hurriedly proposed that as the room was getting
dark they should go out into the air.  They went out; the visitors
saying good-night to the doll's dressmaker, whom they left, leaning
back in her chair with her arms crossed, singing to herself in a
sweet thoughtful little voice.

'I'll saunter on by the river,' said Bradley.  'You will be glad to talk
together.'

As his uneasy figure went on before them among the evening
shadows, the boy said to his sister, petulantly:

'When are you going to settle yourself in some Christian sort of
place, Liz?  I thought you were going to do it before now.'

'I am very well where I am, Charley.'

'Very well where you are!  I am ashamed to have brought Mr
Headstone with me.  How came you to get into such company as
that little witch's?'

'By chance at first, as it seemed, Charley.  But I think it must have
been by something more than chance, for that child--You
remember the bills upon the walls at home?'

'Confound the bills upon the walls at home!  I want to forget the
bills upon the walls at home, and it would be better for you to do
the same,' grumbled the boy.  'Well; what of them?'

'This child is the grandchild of the old man.'

'What old man?'

'The terrible drunken old man, in the list slippers and the night-
cap.'

The boy asked, rubbing his nose in a manner that half expressed
vexation at hearing so much, and half curiosity to hear more: 'How
came you to make that out?  What a girl you are!'

'The child's father is employed by the house that employs me;
that's how I came to know it, Charley.  The father is like his own
father, a weak wretched trembling creature, falling to pieces,
never sober.  But a good workman too, at the work he does.  The
mother is dead.  This poor ailing little creature has come to be
what she is, surrounded by drunken people from her cradle--if she
ever had one, Charley.'

'I don't see what you have to do with her, for all that,' said the boy.

'Don't you, Charley?'

The boy looked doggedly at the river.  They were at Millbank, and
the river rolled on their left.  His sister gently touched him on the
shoulder, and pointed to it.

'Any compensation--restitution--never mind the word, you know
my meaning.  Father's grave.'

But he did not respond with any tenderness.  After a moody
silence he broke out in an ill-used tone:

'It'll be a very hard thing, Liz, if, when I am trying my best to get
up in the world, you pull me back.'

'I, Charley?'

'Yes, you, Liz.  Why can't you let bygones be bygones?  Why can't
you, as Mr Headstone said to me this very evening about another
matter, leave well alone?  What we have got to do, is, to turn our
faces full in our new direction, and keep straight on.'

'And never look back?  Not even to try to make some amends?'

'You are such a dreamer,' said the boy, with his former petulance.
'It was all very well when we sat before the fire--when we looked
into the hollow down by the flare--but we are looking into the real
world, now.'

'Ah, we were looking into the real world then, Charley!'

'I understand what you mean by that, but you are not justified in
it.  I don't want, as I raise myself to shake you off, Liz.  I want to
carry you up with me.  That's what I want to do, and mean to do.
I know what I owe you.  I said to Mr Headstone this very evening,
"After all, my sister got me here."  Well, then.  Don't pull me
back, and hold me down.  That's all I ask, and surely that's not
unconscionable.'

She had kept a steadfast look upon him, and she answered with
composure:

'I am not here selfishly, Charley.  To please myself I could not be
too far from that river.'

'Nor could you be too far from it to please me.  Let us get quit of it
equally.  Why should you linger about it any more than I?  I give it
a wide berth.'

'I can't get away from it, I think,' said Lizzie, passing her hand
across her forehead.  'It's no purpose of mine that I live by it still.'

'There you go, Liz!  Dreaming again!  You lodge yourself of your
own accord in a house with a drunken--tailor, I suppose--or
something of the sort, and a little crooked antic of a child, or old
person, or whatever it is, and then you talk as if you were drawn
or driven there.  Now, do be more practical.'

She had been practical enough with him, in suffering and striving
for him; but she only laid her hand upon his shoulder--not
reproachfully--and tapped it twice or thrice.  She had been used to
do so, to soothe him when she carried him about, a child as heavy
as herself.  Tears started to his eyes.

'Upon my word, Liz,' drawing the back of his hand across them, 'I
mean to be a good brother to you, and to prove that I know what I
owe you.  All I say is, that I hope you'll control your fancies a
little, on my account.  I'll get a school, and then you must come
and live with me, and you'll have to control your fancies then, so
why not now?  Now, say I haven't vexed you.'

'You haven't, Charley, you haven't.'

'And say I haven't hurt you.'

'You haven't, Charley.'  But this answer was less ready.

'Say you are sure I didn't mean to.  Come!  There's Mr Headstone
stopping and looking over the wall at the tide, to hint that it's time
to go.  Kiss me, and tell me that you know I didn't mean to hurt
you.'

She told him so, and they embraced, and walked on and came up
with the schoolmaster.

'But we go your sister's way,' he remarked, when the boy told him
he was ready.  And with his cumbrous and uneasy action he stiffly
offered her his arm.  Her hand was just within it, when she drew it
back.  He looked round with a start, as if he thought she had
detected something that repelled her, in the momentary touch.

'I will not go in just yet,' said Lizzie.  'And you have a distance
before you, and will walk faster without me.'

Being by this time close to Vauxhall Bridge, they resolved, in
consequence, to take that way over the Thames, and they left her;
Bradley Headstone giving her his hand at parting, and she
thanking him for his care of her brother.

The master and the pupil walked on, rapidly and silently.  They
had nearly crossed the bridge, when a gentleman came coolly
sauntering towards them, with a cigar in his mouth, his coat
thrown back, and his hands behind him.  Something in the careless
manner of this person, and in a certain lazily arrogant air with
which he approached, holding possession of twice as much
pavement as another would have claimed, instantly caught the
boy's attention.  As the gentleman passed the boy looked at him
narrowly, and then stood still, looking after him.

'Who is it that you stare after?' asked Bradley.

'Why!' said the boy, with a confused and pondering frown upon
his face, 'It IS that Wrayburn one!'

Bradley Headstone scrutinized the boy as closely as the boy had
scrutinized the gentleman.

'I beg your pardon, Mr Headstone, but I couldn't help wondering
what in the world brought HIM here!'

Though he said it as if his wonder were past--at the same time
resuming the walk--it was not lost upon the master that he looked
over his shoulder after speaking, and that the same perplexed and
pondering frown was heavy on his face.

'You don't appear to like your friend, Hexam?'

'I DON'T like him,' said the boy.

'Why not?'

'He took hold of me by the chin in a precious impertinent way, the
first time I ever saw him,' said the boy.

'Again, why?'

'For nothing.  Or--it's much the same--because something I
happened to say about my sister didn't happen to please him.'

'Then he knows your sister?'

'He didn't at that time,' said the boy, still moodily pondering.

'Does now?'

The boy had so lost himself that he looked at Mr Bradley
Headstone as they walked on side by side, without attempting to
reply until the question had been repeated; then he nodded and
answered, 'Yes, sir.'

'Going to see her, I dare say.'

'It can't be!' said the boy, quickly.  'He doesn't know her well
enough.  I should like to catch him at it!'

When they had walked on for a time, more rapidly than before,
the master said, clasping the pupil's arm between the elbow and
the shoulder with his hand:

'You were going to tell me something about that person.  What did
you say his name was?'

'Wrayburn.  Mr Eugene Wrayburn.  He is what they call a
barrister, with nothing to do.  The first time he came to our old
place was when my father was alive.  He came on business; not
that it was HIS business--HE never had any business--he was
brought by a friend of his.'

'And the other times?'

'There was only one other time that I know of.  When my father
was killed by accident, he chanced to be one of the finders.  He
was mooning about, I suppose, taking liberties with people's chins;
but there he was, somehow.  He brought the news home to my
sister early in the morning, and brought Miss Abbey Potterson, a
neighbour, to help break it to her.  He was mooning about the
house when I was fetched home in the afternoon--they didn't
know where to find me till my sister could be brought round
sufficiently to tell them--and then he mooned away.'

'And is that all?'

'That's all, sir.'

Bradley Headstone gradually released the boy's arm, as if he were
thoughtful, and they walked on side by side as before.  After a
long silence between them, Bradley resumed the talk.

'I suppose--your sister--' with a curious break both before and
after the words, 'has received hardly any teaching, Hexam?'

'Hardly any, sir.'

'Sacrificed, no doubt, to her father's objections.  I remember them
in your case.  Yet--your sister--scarcely looks or speaks like an
ignorant person.'

'Lizzie has as much thought as the best, Mr Headstone.  Too
much, perhaps, without teaching.  I used to call the fire at home,
her books, for she was always full of fancies--sometimes quite
wise fancies, considering--when she sat looking at it.'

'I don't like that,' said Bradley Headstone.

His pupil was a little surprised by this striking in with so sudden
and decided and emotional an objection, but took it as a proof of
the master's interest in himself.  It emboldened him to say:

'I have never brought myself to mention it openly to you, Mr
Headstone, and you're my witness that I couldn't even make up
my mind to take it from you before we came out to-night; but it's a
painful thing to think that if I get on as well as you hope, I shall
be--I won't say disgraced, because I don't mean disgraced-but--
rather put to the blush if it was known--by a sister who has been
very good to me.'

'Yes,' said Bradley Headstone in a slurring way, for his mind
scarcely seemed to touch that point, so smoothly did it glide to
another, 'and there is this possibility to consider.  Some man who
had worked his way might come to admire--your sister--and might
even in time bring himself to think of marrying--your sister--and it
would be a sad drawback and a heavy penalty upon him, if;
overcoming in his mind other inequalities of condition and other
considerations against it, this inequality and this consideration
remained in full force.'

'That's much my own meaning, sir.'

'Ay, ay,' said Bradley Headstone, 'but you spoke of a mere
brother.  Now, the case I have supposed would be a much stronger
case; because an admirer, a husband, would form the connexion
voluntarily, besides being obliged to proclaim it: which a brother is
not.  After all, you know, it must be said of you that you couldn't
help yourself: while it would be said of him, with equal reason,
that he could.'

'That's true, sir.  Sometimes since Lizzie was left free by father's
death, I have thought that such a young woman might soon
acquire more than enough to pass muster.  And sometimes I have
even thought that perhaps Miss Peecher--'

'For the purpose, I would advise Not Miss Peecher,' Bradley
Headstone struck in with a recurrence of his late decision of
manner.

'Would you be so kind as to think of it for me, Mr Headstone?'

'Yes, Hexam, yes.  I'll think of it.  I'll think maturely of it.  I'll think
well of it.'

Their walk was almost a silent one afterwards, until it ended at the
school-house.  There, one of neat Miss Peecher's little windows,
like the eyes in needles, was illuminated, and in a corner near it
sat Mary Anne watching, while Miss Peecher at the table stitched
at the neat little body she was making up by brown paper pattern
for her own wearing.  N.B. Miss Peecher and Miss Peecher's
pupils were not much encouraged in the unscholastic art of
needlework, by Government.

Mary Anne with her face to the window, held her arm up.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'Mr Headstone coming home, ma'am.'

In about a minute, Mary Anne again hailed.

'Yes, Mary Anne?'

'Gone in and locked his door, ma'am.'

Miss Peecher repressed a sigh as she gathered her work together
for bed, and transfixed that part of her dress where her heart
would have been if she had had the dress on, with a sharp, sharp
needle.



Chapter 2

STILL EDUCATIONAL


The person of the house, doll's dressmaker and manufacturer of
ornamental pincushions and pen-wipers, sat in her quaint little low
arm-chair, singing in the dark, until Lizzie came back.  The person
of the house had attained that dignity while yet of very tender
years indeed, through being the only trustworthy person IN the
house.

'Well Lizzie-Mizzie-Wizzie,' said she, breaking off in her song.
'what's the news out of doors?'

'What's the news in doors?' returned Lizzie, playfully smoothing
the bright long fair hair which grew very luxuriant and beautiful
on the head of the doll's dressmaker.

'Let me see, said the blind man.  Why the last news is, that I don't
mean to marry your brother.'

'No?'

'No-o,' shaking her head and her chin.  'Don't like the boy.'

'What do you say to his master?'

'I say that I think he's bespoke.'

Lizzie finished putting the hair carefully back over the misshapen
shoulders, and then lighted a candle.  It showed the little parlour
to be dingy, but orderly and clean.  She stood it on the
mantelshelf, remote from the dressmaker's eyes, and then put the
room door open, and the house door open, and turned the little
low chair and its occupant towards the outer air.  It was a sultry
night, and this was a fine-weather arrangement when the day's
work was done.  To complete it, she seated herself in a chair by
the side of the little chair, and protectingly drew under her arm the
spare hand that crept up to her.

'This is what your loving Jenny Wren calls the best time in the day
and night,' said the person of the house.  Her real name was Fanny
Cleaver; but she had long ago chosen to bestow upon herself the
appellation of Miss Jenny Wren.

'I have been thinking,' Jenny went on, 'as I sat at work to-day,
what a thing it would be, if I should be able to have your company
till I am married, or at least courted.  Because when I am courted,
I shall make Him do some of the things that you do for me.  He
couldn't brush my hair like you do, or help me up and down stairs
like you do, and he couldn't do anything like you do; but he could
take my work home, and he could call for orders in his clumsy
way.  And he shall too.  I'LL trot him about, I can tell him!'

Jenny Wren had her personal vanities--happily for her--and no
intentions were stronger in her breast than the various trials and
torments that were, in the fulness of time, to be inflicted upon
'him.'

'Wherever he may happen to be just at present, or whoever he
may happen to be,' said Miss Wren, 'I know his tricks and his
manners, and I give him warning to look out.'

'Don't you think you are rather hard upon him?' asked her friend,
smiling, and smoothing her hair.

'Not a bit,' replied the sage Miss Wren, with an air of vast
experience.  'My dear, they don't care for you, those fellows, if
you're NOT hard upon 'em.  But I was saying If I should be able to
have your company.  Ah!  What a large If!  Ain't it?'

'I have no intention of parting company, Jenny.'

'Don't say that, or you'll go directly.'

'Am I so little to be relied upon?'

'You're more to be relied upon than silver and gold.'  As she said
it, Miss Wren suddenly broke off, screwed up her eyes and her
chin, and looked prodigiously knowing.  'Aha!

     Who comes here?
     A Grenadier.
     What does he want?
     A pot of beer.

And nothing else in the world, my dear!'

A man's figure paused on the pavement at the outer door.  'Mr
Eugene Wrayburn, ain't it?' said Miss Wren.

'So I am told,' was the answer.

'You may come in, if you're good.'

'I am not good,' said Eugene, 'but I'll come in.'

He gave his hand to Jenny Wren, and he gave his hand to Lizzie,
and he stood leaning by the door at Lizzie's side.  He had been
strolling with his cigar, he said, (it was smoked out and gone by
this time,) and he had strolled round to return in that direction that
he might look in as he passed.  Had she not seen her brother to-
night?

'Yes,' said Lizzie, whose manner was a little troubled.

Gracious condescension on our brother's part!  Mr Eugene
Wrayburn thought he had passed my young gentleman on the
bridge yonder.  Who was his friend with him?

'The schoolmaster.'

'To be sure.  Looked like it.'

Lizzie sat so still, that one could not have said wherein the fact of
her manner being troubled was expressed; and yet one could not
have doubted it.  Eugene was as easy as ever; but perhaps, as she
sat with her eyes cast down, it might have been rather more
perceptible that his attention was concentrated upon her for
certain moments, than its concentration upon any subject for any
short time ever was, elsewhere.

'I have nothing to report, Lizzie,' said Eugene.  'But, having
promised you that an eye should be always kept on Mr Riderhood
through my friend Lightwood, I like occasionally to renew my
assurance that I keep my promise, and keep my friend up to the
mark.'

'I should not have doubted it, sir.'

'Generally, I confess myself a man to be doubted,' returned
Eugene, coolly, 'for all that.'

'Why are you?' asked the sharp Miss Wren.

'Because, my dear,' said the airy Eugene, 'I am a bad idle dog.'

'Then why don't you reform and be a good dog?' inquired Miss
Wren.

'Because, my dear,' returned Eugene, 'there's nobody who makes it
worth my while.  Have you considered my suggestion, Lizzie?'
This in a lower voice, but only as if it were a graver matter; not at
all to the exclusion of the person of the house.

'I have thought of it, Mr Wrayburn, but I have not been able to
make up my mind to accept it.'

'False pride!' said Eugene.

'I think not, Mr Wrayburn.  I hope not.'

'False pride!' repeated Eugene.  'Why, what else is it?  The thing is
worth nothing in itself.  The thing is worth nothing to me.  What
can it be worth to me?  You know the most I make of it.  I propose
to be of some use to somebody--which I never was in this world,
and never shall be on any other occasion--by paying some
qualified person of your own sex and age, so many (or rather so
few) contemptible shillings, to come here, certain nights in the
week, and give you certain instruction which you wouldn't want if
you hadn't been a self-denying daughter and sister.  You know
that it's good to have it, or you would never have so devoted
yourself to your brother's having it.  Then why not have it:
especially when our friend Miss Jenny here would profit by it too?
If I proposed to be the teacher, or to attend the lessons--obviously
incongruous!--but as to that, I might as well be on the other side of
the globe, or not on the globe at all.  False pride, Lizzie.  Because
true pride wouldn't shame, or be shamed by, your thankless
brother.  True pride wouldn't have schoolmasters brought here,
like doctors, to look at a bad case.  True pride would go to work
and do it.  You know that, well enough, for you know that your
own true pride would do it to-morrow, if you had the ways and
means which false pride won't let me supply.  Very well.  I add no
more than this.  Your false pride does wrong to yourself and does
wrong to your dead father.'

'How to my father, Mr Wrayburn?' she asked, with an anxious
face.

'How to your father?  Can you ask!  By perpetuating the
consequences of his ignorant and blind obstinacy.  By resolving
not to set right the wrong he did you.  By determining that the
deprivation to which he condemned you, and which he forced
upon you, shall always rest upon his head.'

It chanced to be a subtle string to sound, in her who had so spoken
to her brother within the hour.  It sounded far more forcibly,
because of the change in the speaker for the moment; the passing
appearance of earnestness, complete conviction, injured
resentment of suspicion, generous and unselfish interest.  All these
qualities, in him usually so light and careless, she felt to be
inseparable from some touch of their opposites in her own breast.
She thought, had she, so far below him and so different, rejected
this disinterestedness, because of some vain misgiving that he
sought her out, or heeded any personal attractions that he might
descry in her?  The poor girl, pure of heart and purpose, could not
bear to think it.  Sinking before her own eyes, as she suspected
herself of it, she drooped her head as though she had done him
some wicked and grievous injury, and broke into silent tears.

'Don't be distressed,' said Eugene, very, very kindly.  'I hope it is
not I who have distressed you.  I meant no more than to put the
matter in its true light before you; though I acknowledge I did it
selfishly enough, for I am disappointed.'

Disappointed of doing her a service.  How else COULD he be
disappointed?

'It won't break my heart,' laughed Eugene; 'it won't stay by me
eight-and-forty hours; but I am genuinely disappointed.  I had set
my fancy on doing this little thing for you and for our friend Miss
Jenny.  The novelty of my doing anything in the least useful, had
its charms.  I see, now, that I might have managed it better.  I
might have affected to do it wholly for our friend Miss J.  I might
have got myself up, morally, as Sir Eugene Bountiful.  But upon
my soul I can't make flourishes, and I would rather be
disappointed than try.'

If he meant to follow home what was in Lizzie's thoughts, it was
skilfully done.  If he followed it by mere fortuitous coincidence, it
was done by an evil chance.

'It opened out so naturally before me,' said Eugene.  'The ball
seemed so thrown into my hands by accident!  I happen to be
originally brought into contact with you, Lizzie, on those two
occasions that you know of.  I happen to be able to promise you
that a watch shall be kept upon that false accuser, Riderhood.  I
happen to be able to give you some little consolation in the
darkest hour of your distress, by assuring you that I don't believe
him.  On the same occasion I tell you that I am the idlest and least
of lawyers, but that I am better than none, in a case I have noted
down with my own hand, and that you may be always sure of my
best help, and incidentally of Lightwood's too, in your efforts to
clear your father.  So, it gradually takes my fancy that I may help
you--so easily!--to clear your father of that other blame which I
mentioned a few minutes ago, and which is a just and real one.  I
hope I have explained myself; for I am heartily sorry to have
distressed you.  I hate to claim to mean well, but I really did mean
honestly and simply well, and I want you to know it.'

'I have never doubted that, Mr Wrayburn,' said Lizzie; the more
repentant, the less he claimed.

'I am very glad to hear it.  Though if you had quite understood my
whole meaning at first, I think you would not have refused.  Do
you think you would?'

'I--don't know that I should, Mr Wrayburn.'

'Well!  Then why refuse now you do understand it?'

'It's not easy for me to talk to you,' returned Lizzie, in some
confusion, 'for you see all the consequences of what I say, as soon
as I say it.'

'Take all the consequences,' laughed Eugene, 'and take away my
disappointment.  Lizzie Hexam, as I truly respect you, and as I am
your friend and a poor devil of a gentleman, I protest I don't even
now understand why you hesitate.'

There was an appearance of openness, trustfulness, unsuspecting
generosity, in his words and manner, that won the poor girl over;
and not only won her over, but again caused her to feel as though
she had been influenced by the opposite qualities, with vanity at
their head.

'I will not hesitate any longer, Mr Wrayburn.  I hope you will not
think the worse of me for having hesitated at all.  For myself and
for Jenny--you let me answer for you, Jenny dear?'

The little creature had been leaning back, attentive, with her
elbows resting on the elbows of her chair, and her chin upon her
hands.  Without changing her attitude, she answered, 'Yes!' so
suddenly that it rather seemed as if she had chopped the
monosyllable than spoken it.

'For myself and for Jenny, I thankfully accept your kind offer.'

'Agreed!  Dismissed!' said Eugene, giving Lizzie his hand before
lightly waving it, as if he waved the whole subject away.  'I hope it
may not be often that so much is made of so little!'

Then he fell to talking playfully with Jenny Wren.  'I think of
setting up a doll, Miss Jenny,' he said.

'You had better not,' replied the dressmaker.

'Why not?'

'You are sure to break it.  All you children do.'

'But that makes good for trade, you know, Miss Wren,' returned
Eugene.  'Much as people's breaking promises and contracts and
bargains of all sorts, makes good for MY trade.'

'I don't know about that,' Miss Wren retorted; 'but you had better
by half set up a pen-wiper, and turn industrious, and use it.'

'Why, if we were all as industrious as you, little Busy-Body, we
should begin to work as soon as we could crawl, and there would
be a bad thing!'

'Do you mean,' returned the little creature, with a flush suffusing
her face, 'bad for your backs and your legs?'

'No, no, no,' said Eugene; shocked--to do him justice--at the
thought of trifling with her infirmity.  'Bad for business, bad for
business.  If we all set to work as soon as we could use our hands,
it would be all over with the dolls' dressmakers.'

'There's something in that,' replied Miss Wren; 'you have a sort of
an idea in your noddle sometimes.'  Then, in a changed tone;
'Talking of ideas, my Lizzie,' they were sitting side by side as they
had sat at first, 'I wonder how it happens that when I am work,
work, working here, all alone in the summer-time, I smell flowers.'

'As a commonplace individual, I should say,' Eugene suggested
languidly--for he was growing weary of the person of the house--
'that you smell flowers because you DO smell flowers.'

'No I don't,' said the little creature, resting one arm upon the elbow
of her chair, resting her chin upon that hand, and looking vacantly
before her; 'this is not a flowery neighbourhood.  It's anything but
that.  And yet as I sit at work, I smell miles of flowers.  I smell
roses, till I think I see the rose-leaves lying in heaps, bushels, on
the floor.  I smell fallen leaves, till I put down my hand--so--and
expect to make them rustle.  I smell the white and the pink May in
the hedges, and all sorts of flowers that I never was among.  For I
have seen very few flowers indeed, in my life.'

'Pleasant fancies to have, Jenny dear!' said her friend: with a
glance towards Eugene as if she would have asked him whether
they were given the child in compensation for her losses.

'So I think, Lizzie, when they come to me.  And the birds I hear!
Oh!' cried the little creature, holding out her hand and looking
upward, 'how they sing!'

There was something in the face and action for the moment, quite
inspired and beautiful.  Then the chin dropped musingly upon the
hand again.

'I dare say my birds sing better than other birds, and my flowers
smell better than other flowers.  For when I was a little child,' in a
tone as though it were ages ago, 'the children that I used to see
early in the morning were very different from any others that I
ever saw.  They were not like me; they were not chilled, anxious,
ragged, or beaten; they were never in pain.  They were not like the
children of the neighbours; they never made me tremble all over,
by setting up shrill noises, and they never mocked me.  Such
numbers of them too!  All in white dresses, and with something
shining on the borders, and on their heads, that I have never been
able to imitate with my work, though I know it so well.  They used
to come down in long bright slanting rows, and say all together,
"Who is this in pain!  Who is this in pain!"  When I told them who
it was, they answered, "Come and play with us!"  When I said "I
never play!  I can't play!" they swept about me and took me up,
and made me light.  Then it was all delicious ease and rest till they
laid me down, and said, all together, "Have patience, and we will
come again."  Whenever they came back, I used to know they
were coming before I saw the long bright rows, by hearing them
ask, all together a long way off, "Who is this in pain!  Who is this
in pain!"  And I used to cry out, "O my blessed children, it's poor
me.  Have pity on me.  Take me up and make me light!"'

By degrees, as she progressed in this remembrance, the hand was
raised, the late ecstatic look returned, and she became quite
beautiful.  Having so paused for a moment, silent, with a listening
smile upon her face, she looked round and recalled herself.

'What poor fun you think me; don't you, Mr Wrayburn?  You may
well look tired of me.  But it's Saturday night, and I won't detain
you.'

'That is to say, Miss Wren,' observed Eugene, quite ready to profit
by the hint, 'you wish me to go?'

'Well, it's Saturday night,' she returned, and my child's coming
home.  And my child is a troublesome bad child, and costs me a
world of scolding.  I would rather you didn't see my child.'

'A doll?' said Eugene, not understanding, and looking for an
explanation.

But Lizzie, with her lips only, shaping the two words, 'Her father,'
he delayed no longer.  He took his leave immediately.  At the
corner of the street he stopped to light another cigar, and possibly
to ask himself what he was doing otherwise.  If so, the answer was
indefinite and vague.  Who knows what he is doing, who is
careless what he does!

A man stumbled against him as he turned away, who mumbled
some maudlin apology.  Looking after this man, Eugene saw him
go in at the door by which he himself had just come out.

On the man's stumbling into the room, Lizzie rose to leave it.

'Don't go away, Miss Hexam,' he said in a submissive manner,
speaking thickly and with difficulty.  'Don't fly from unfortunate
man in shattered state of health.  Give poor invalid honour of your
company.  It ain't--ain't catching.'

Lizzie murmured that she had something to do in her own room,
and went away upstairs.

'How's my Jenny?' said the man, timidly.  'How's my Jenny Wren,
best of children, object dearest affections broken-hearted invalid?'

To which the person of the house, stretching out her arm in an
attitude of command, replied with irresponsive asperity: 'Go along
with you!  Go along into your corner!  Get into your corner
directly!'

The wretched spectacle made as if he would have offered some
remonstrance; but not venturing to resist the person of the house,
thought better of it, and went and sat down on a particular chair of
disgrace.

'Oh-h-h!' cried the person of the house, pointing her little finger,
'You bad old boy!  Oh-h-h you naughty, wicked creature!  WHAT
do you mean by it?'

The shaking figure, unnerved and disjointed from head to foot, put
out its two hands a little way, as making overtures of peace and
reconciliation.  Abject tears stood in its eyes, and stained the
blotched red of its cheeks.  The swollen lead-coloured under lip
trembled with a shameful whine.  The whole indecorous
threadbare ruin, from the broken shoes to the prematurely-grey
scanty hair, grovelled.  Not with any sense worthy to be called a
sense, of this dire reversal of the places of parent and child, but in
a pitiful expostulation to be let off from a scolding.

'I know your tricks and your manners,' cried Miss Wren.  'I know
where you've been to!' (which indeed it did not require
discernment to discover).  'Oh, you disgraceful old chap!'

The very breathing of the figure was contemptible, as it laboured
and rattled in that operation, like a blundering clock.

'Slave, slave, slave, from morning to night,' pursued the person of
the house, 'and all for this!  WHAT do you mean by it?'

There was something in that emphasized 'What,' which absurdly
frightened the figure.  As often as the person of the house worked
her way round to it--even as soon as he saw that it was coming--
he collapsed in an extra degree.

'I wish you had been taken up, and locked up,' said the person of
the house.  'I wish you had been poked into cells and black holes,
and run over by rats and spiders and beetles.  I know their tricks
and their manners, and they'd have tickled you nicely.  Ain't you
ashamed of yourself?'

'Yes, my dear,' stammered the father.

'Then,' said the person of the house, terrifying him by a grand
muster of her spirits and forces before recurring to the emphatic
word, 'WHAT do you mean by it?'

'Circumstances over which had no control,' was the miserable
creature's plea in extenuation.

'I'LL circumstance you and control you too,' retorted the person of
the house, speaking with vehement sharpness, 'if you talk in that
way.  I'll give you in charge to the police, and have you fined five
shillings when you can't pay, and then I won't pay the money for
you, and you'll be transported for life.  How should you like to be
transported for life?'

'Shouldn't like it.  Poor shattered invalid.  Trouble nobody long,'
cried the wretched figure.

'Come, come!' said the person of the house, tapping the table near
her in a business-like manner, and shaking her head and her chin;
'you know what you've got to do.  Put down your money this
instant.'

The obedient figure began to rummage in its pockets.

'Spent a fortune out of your wages, I'll be bound!' said the person
of the house.  'Put it here!  All you've got left!  Every farthing!'

Such a business as he made of collecting it from his dogs'-eared
pockets; of expecting it in this pocket, and not finding it; of not
expecting it in that pocket, and passing it over; of finding no
pocket where that other pocket ought to be!

'Is this all?' demanded the person of the house, when a confused
heap of pence and shillings lay on the table.

'Got no more,' was the rueful answer, with an accordant shake of
the head.

'Let me make sure.  You know what you've got to do.  Turn all
your pockets inside out, and leave 'em so!' cried the person of the
house.

He obeyed.  And if anything could have made him look more
abject or more dismally ridiculous than before, it would have been
his so displaying himself.

'Here's but seven and eightpence halfpenny!' exclaimed Miss
Wren, after reducing the heap to order.  'Oh, you prodigal old son!
Now you shall be starved.'

'No, don't starve me,' he urged, whimpering.

'If you were treated as you ought to be,' said Miss Wren, 'you'd be
fed upon the skewers of cats' meat;--only the skewers, after the
cats had had the meat.  As it is, go to bed.'

When he stumbled out of the corner to comply, he again put out
both his hands, and pleaded: 'Circumstances over which no
control--'

'Get along with you to bed!' cried Miss Wren, snapping him up.
'Don't speak to me.  I'm not going to forgive you.  Go to bed this
moment!'

Seeing another emphatic 'What' upon its way, he evaded it by
complying and was heard to shuffle heavily up stairs, and shut his
door, and throw himself on his bed.  Within a little while
afterwards, Lizzie came down.

'Shall we have our supper, Jenny dear?'

'Ah! bless us and save us, we need have something to keep us
going,' returned Miss Jenny, shrugging her shoulders.

Lizzie laid a cloth upon the little bench (more handy for the
person of the house than an ordinary table), and put upon it such
plain fare as they were accustomed to have, and drew up a stool
for herself.

'Now for supper!  What are you thinking of, Jenny darling?'

'I was thinking,' she returned, coming out of a deep study, 'what I
would do to Him, if he should turn out a drunkard.'

'Oh, but he won't,' said Lizzie.  'You'll take care of that,
beforehand.'

'I shall try to take care of it beforehand, but he might deceive me.
Oh, my dear, all those fellows with their tricks and their manners
do deceive!'  With the little fist in full action.  'And if so, I tell you
what I think I'd do.  When he was asleep, I'd make a spoon red
hot, and I'd have some boiling liquor bubbling in a saucepan, and
I'd take it out hissing, and I'd open his mouth with the other hand--
or perhaps he'd sleep with his mouth ready open--and I'd pour it
down his throat, and blister it and choke him.'

'I am sure you would do no such horrible thing,' said Lizzie.

'Shouldn't I?  Well; perhaps I shouldn't.  But I should like to!'

'I am equally sure you would not.'

'Not even like to?  Well, you generally know best.  Only you
haven't always lived among it as I have lived--and your back isn't
bad and your legs are not queer.'

As they went on with their supper, Lizzie tried to bring her round
to that prettier and better state.  But, the charm was broken.  The
person of the house was the person of a house full of sordid
shames and cares, with an upper room in which that abased figure
was infecting even innocent sleep with sensual brutality and
degradation.  The doll's dressmaker had become a little quaint
shrew; of the world, worldly; of the earth, earthy.

Poor doll's dressmaker!  How often so dragged down by hands
that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when
losing her way on the eternal road, and asking guidance!  Poor,
poor little doll's dressmaker!



Chapter 3

A PIECE OF WORK


Britannia, sitting meditating one fine day (perhaps in the attitude
in which she is presented on the copper coinage), discovers all of
a sudden that she wants Veneering in Parliament.  It occurs to her
that Veneering is 'a representative man'--which cannot in these
times be doubted--and that Her Majesty's faithful Commons are
incomplete without him.  So, Britannia mentions to a legal
gentleman of her acquaintance that if Veneering will 'put down'
five thousand pounds, he may write a couple of initial letters after
his name at the extremely cheap rate of two thousand five
hundred per letter.  It is clearly understood between Britannia and
the legal gentleman that nobody is to take up the five thousand
pounds, but that being put down they will disappear by magical
conjuration and enchantment.

The legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence going straight from
that lady to Veneering, thus commissioned, Veneering declares
himself highly flattered, but requires breathing time to ascertain
'whether his friends will rally round him.'  Above all things, he
says, it behoves him to be clear, at a crisis of this importance,
'whether his friends will rally round him.'  The legal gentleman, in
the interests of his client cannot allow much time for this purpose,
as the lady rather thinks she knows somebody prepared to put
down six thousand pounds; but he says he will give Veneering
four hours.

Veneering then says to Mrs Veneering, 'We must work,' and
throws himself into a Hansom cab.  Mrs Veneering in the same
moment relinquishes baby to Nurse; presses her aquiline hands
upon her brow, to arrange the throbbing intellect within; orders
out the carriage; and repeats in a distracted and devoted manner,
compounded of Ophelia and any self-immolating female of
antiquity you may prefer, 'We must work.'

Veneering having instructed his driver to charge at the Public in
the streets, like the Life-Guards at Waterloo, is driven furiously to
Duke Street, Saint James's.  There, he finds Twemlow in his
lodgings, fresh from the hands of a secret artist who has been
doing something to his hair with yolks of eggs.  The process
requiring that Twemlow shall, for two hours after the application,
allow his hair to stick upright and dry gradually, he is in an
appropriate state for the receipt of startling intelligence; looking
equally like the Monument on Fish Street Hill, and King Priam on
a certain incendiary occasion not wholly unknown as a neat point
from the classics.

'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, grasping both his hands, as
the dearest and oldest of my friends--'

('Then there can be no more doubt about it in future,' thinks
Twemlow, 'and I AM!')

'--Are you of opinion that your cousin, Lord Snigsworth, would
give his name as a Member of my Committee?  I don't go so far as
to ask for his lordship; I only ask for his name.  Do you think he
would give me his name?'

In sudden low spirits, Twemlow replies, 'I don't think he would.'

'My political opinions,' says Veneering, not previously aware of
having any, 'are identical with those of Lord Snigsworth, and
perhaps as a matter of public feeling and public principle, Lord
Snigsworth would give me his name.'

'It might be so,' says Twemlow; 'but--'  And perplexedly scratching
his head, forgetful of the yolks of eggs, is the more discomfited by
being reminded how stickey he is.

'Between such old and intimate friends as ourselves,' pursues
Veneering, 'there should in such a case be no reserve.  Promise me
that if I ask you to do anything for me which you don't like to do,
or feel the slightest difficulty in doing, you will freely tell me so.'

This, Twemlow is so kind as to promise, with every appearance of
most heartily intending to keep his word.

'Would you have any objection to write down to Snigsworthy
Park, and ask this favour of Lord Snigsworth?  Of course if it were
granted I should know that I owed it solely to you; while at the
same time you would put it to Lord Snigsworth entirely upon
public grounds.  Would you have any objection?'

Says Twemlow, with his hand to his forehead, 'You have exacted
a promise from me.'

'I have, my dear Twemlow.'

'And you expect me to keep it honourably.'

'I do, my dear Twemlow.'

'ON the whole, then;--observe me,' urges Twemlow with great
nicety, as if; in the case of its having been off the whole, he would
have done it directly--'ON the whole, I must beg you to excuse me
from addressing any communication to Lord Snigsworth.'

'Bless you, bless you!' says Veneering; horribly disappointed, but
grasping him by both hands again, in a particularly fervent
manner.

It is not to be wondered at that poor Twemlow should decline to
inflict a letter on his noble cousin (who has gout in the temper),
inasmuch as his noble cousin, who allows him a small annuity on
which he lives, takes it out of him, as the phrase goes, in extreme
severity; putting him, when he visits at Snigsworthy Park, under a
kind of martial law; ordaining that he shall hang his hat on a
particular peg, sit on a particular chair, talk on particular subjects
to particular people, and perform particular exercises: such as
sounding the praises of the Family Varnish (not to say Pictures),
and abstaining from the choicest of the Family Wines unless
expressly invited to partake.

'One thing, however, I CAN do for you,' says Twemlow; 'and that
is, work for you.'

Veneering blesses him again.

'I'll go,' says Twemlow, in a rising hurry of spirits, 'to the club;--let
us see now; what o'clock is it?'

'Twenty minutes to eleven.'

'I'll be,' says Twemlow, 'at the club by ten minutes to twelve, and
I'll never leave it all day.'

Veneering feels that his friends are rallying round him, and says,
'Thank you, thank you.  I knew I could rely upon you.  I said to
Anastatia before leaving home just now to come to you--of course
the first friend I have seen on a subject so momentous to me, my
dear Twemlow--I said to Anastatia, "We must work."'

'You were right, you were right,' replies Twemlow.  'Tell me.  Is
SHE working?'

'She is,' says Veneering.

'Good!' cries Twemlow, polite little gentleman that he is.  'A
woman's tact is invaluable.  To have the dear sex with us, is to
have everything with us.'

'But you have not imparted to me,' remarks Veneering, 'what you
think of my entering the House of Commons?'

'I think,' rejoins Twemlow, feelingly, 'that it is the best club in
London.'

Veneering again blesses him, plunges down stairs, rushes into his
Hansom, and directs the driver to be up and at the British Public,
and to charge into the City.

Meanwhile Twemlow, in an increasing hurry of spirits, gets his
hair down as well as he can--which is not very well; for, after
these glutinous applications it is restive, and has a surface on it
somewhat in the nature of pastry--and gets to the club by the
appointed time.  At the club he promptly secures a large window,
writing materials, and all the newspapers, and establishes himself;
immoveable, to be respectfully contemplated by Pall Mall.
Sometimes, when a man enters who nods to him, Twemlow says,
'Do you know Veneering?'  Man says, 'No; member of the club?'
Twemlow says, 'Yes.  Coming in for Pocket-Breaches.'  Man says,
'Ah!  Hope he may find it worth the money!' yawns, and saunters
out.  Towards six o'clock of the afternoon, Twemlow begins to
persuade himself that he is positively jaded with work, and thinks
it much to be regretted that he was not brought up as a
Parliamentary agent.

From Twemlow's, Veneering dashes at Podsnap's place of
business.  Finds Podsnap reading the paper, standing, and inclined
to be oratorical over the astonishing discovery he has made, that
Italy is not England.  Respectfully entreats Podsnap's pardon for
stopping the flow of his words of wisdom, and informs him what is
in the wind.  Tells Podsnap that their political opinions are
identical.  Gives Podsnap to understand that he, Veneering,
formed his political opinions while sitting at the feet of him,
Podsnap.  Seeks earnestly to know whether Podsnap 'will rally
round him?'

Says Podsnap, something sternly, 'Now, first of all, Veneering, do
you ask my advice?'

Veneering falters that as so old and so dear a friend--

'Yes, yes, that's all very well,' says Podsnap; 'but have you made
up your mind to take this borough of Pocket-Breaches on its own
terms, or do you ask my opinion whether you shall take it or leave
it alone?'

Veneering repeats that his heart's desire and his soul's thirst are,
that Podsnap shall rally round him.

'Now, I'll be plain with you, Veneering,' says Podsnap, knitting his
brows.  'You will infer that I don't care about Parliament, from the
fact of my not being there?'

Why, of course Veneering knows that!  Of course Veneering
knows that if Podsnap chose to go there, he would be there, in a
space of time that might be stated by the light and thoughtless as a
jiffy.

'It is not worth my while,' pursues Podsnap, becoming handsomely
mollified, 'and it is the reverse of important to my position.  But it
is not my wish to set myself up as law for another man, differently
situated.  You think it IS worth YOUR while, and IS important to
YOUR position.  Is that so?'

Always with the proviso that Podsnap will rally round him,
Veneering thinks it is so.

'Then you don't ask my advice,' says Podsnap.  'Good.  Then I
won't give it you.  But you do ask my help.  Good.  Then I'll work
for you.'

Veneering instantly blesses him, and apprises him that Twemlow is
already working.  Podsnap does not quite approve that anybody
should be already working--regarding it rather in the light of a
liberty--but tolerates Twemlow, and says he is a well-connected
old female who will do no harm.

'I have nothing very particular to do to-day,' adds Podsnap, 'and
I'll mix with some influential people.  I had engaged myself to
dinner, but I'll send Mrs Podsnap and get off going myself; and I'll
dine with you at eight.  It's important we should report progress
and compare notes.  Now, let me see.  You ought to have a couple
of active energetic fellows, of gentlemanly manners, to go about.'

Veneering, after cogitation, thinks of Boots and Brewer.

'Whom I have met at your house,' says Podsnap.  'Yes.  They'll do
very well.  Let them each have a cab, and go about.'

Veneering immediately mentions what a blessing he feels it, to
possess a friend capable of such grand administrative suggestions,
and really is elated at this going about of Boots and Brewer, as an
idea wearing an electioneering aspect and looking desperately like
business.  Leaving Podsnap, at a hand-gallop, he descends upon
Boots and Brewer, who enthusiastically rally round him by at
once bolting off in cabs, taking opposite directions.  Then
Veneering repairs to the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence,
and with him transacts some delicate affairs of business, and
issues an address to the independent electors of Pocket-Breaches,
announcing that he is coming among them for their suffrages, as
the mariner returns to the home of his early childhood: a phrase
which is none the worse for his never having been near the place
in his life, and not even now distinctly knowing where it is.

Mrs Veneering, during the same eventful hours, is not idle.  No
sooner does the carriage turn out, all complete, than she turns into
it, all complete, and gives the word 'To Lady Tippins's.'  That
charmer dwells over a staymaker's in the Belgravian Borders, with
a life-size model in the window on the ground floor of a
distinguished beauty in a blue petticoat, stay-lace in hand, looking
over her shoulder at the town in innocent surprise.  As well she
may, to find herself dressing under the circumstances.

Lady Tippins at home?  Lady Tippins at home, with the room
darkened, and her back (like the lady's at the ground-floor
window, though for a different reason) cunningly turned towards
the light.  Lady Tippins is so surprised by seeing her dear Mrs
Veneering so early--in the middle of the night, the pretty creature
calls it--that her eyelids almost go up, under the influence of that
emotion.

To whom Mrs Veneering incoherently communicates, how that
Veneering has been offered Pocket-Breaches; how that it is the
time for rallying round; how that Veneering has said 'We must
work'; how that she is here, as a wife and mother, to entreat Lady
Tippins to work; how that the carriage is at Lady Tippins's
disposal for purposes of work; how that she, proprietress of said
bran new elegant equipage, will return home on foot--on bleeding
feet if need be--to work (not specifying how), until she drops by
the side of baby's crib.

'My love,' says Lady Tippins, 'compose yourself; we'll bring him
in.'  And Lady Tippins really does work, and work the Veneering
horses too; for she clatters about town all day, calling upon
everybody she knows, and showing her entertaining powers and
green fan to immense advantage, by rattling on with, My dear
soul, what do you think?  What do you suppose me to be?  You'll
never guess.  I'm pretending to be an electioneering agent.  And
for what place of all places?  Pocket-Breaches.  And why?
Because the dearest friend I have in the world has bought it.  And
who is the dearest friend I have in the world?  A man of the name
of Veneering.  Not omitting his wife, who is the other dearest
friend I have in the world; and I positively declare I forgot their
baby, who is the other.  And we are carrying on this little farce to
keep up appearances, and isn't it refreshing!  Then, my precious
child, the fun of it is that nobody knows who these Veneerings
are, and that they know nobody, and that they have a house out of
the Tales of the Genii, and give dinners out of the Arabian Nights.
Curious to see 'em, my dear?  Say you'll know 'em.  Come and
dine with 'em.  They shan't bore you.  Say who shall meet you.
We'll make up a party of our own, and I'll engage that they shall
not interfere with you for one single moment.  You really ought to
see their gold and silver camels.  I call their dinner-table, the
Caravan.  Do come and dine with my Veneerings, my own
Veneerings, my exclusive property, the dearest friends I have in
the world!  And above all, my dear, be sure you promise me your
vote and interest and all sorts of plumpers for Pocket-Breaches;
for we couldn't think of spending sixpence on it, my love, and can
only consent to be brought in by the spontaneous thingummies of
the incorruptible whatdoyoucallums.

Now, the point of view seized by the bewitching Tippins, that this
same working and rallying round is to keep up appearances, may
have something in it, but not all the truth.  More is done, or
considered to be done--which does as well--by taking cabs, and
'going about,' than the fair Tippins knew of.  Many vast vague
reputations have been made, solely by taking cabs and going
about.  This particularly obtains in all Parliamentary affairs.
Whether the business in hand be to get a man in, or get a man out,
or get a man over, or promote a railway, or jockey a railway, or
what else, nothing is understood to be so effectual as scouring
nowhere in a violent hurry--in short, as taking cabs and going
about.

Probably because this reason is in the air, Twemlow, far from
being singular in his persuasion that he works like a Trojan, is
capped by Podsnap, who in his turn is capped by Boots and
Brewer.  At eight o'clock when all these hard workers assemble to
dine at Veneering's, it is understood that the cabs of Boots and
Brewer mustn't leave the door, but that pails of water must be
brought from the nearest baiting-place, and cast over the horses'
legs on the very spot, lest Boots and Brewer should have instant
occasion to mount and away.  Those fleet messengers require the
Analytical to see that their hats are deposited where they can be
laid hold of at an instant's notice; and they dine (remarkably well
though) with the air of firemen in charge of an engine, expecting
intelligence of some tremendous conflagration.

Mrs Veneering faintly remarks, as dinner opens, that many such
days would be too much for her.

'Many such days would be too much for all of us,' says Podsnap;
'but we'll bring him in!'

'We'll bring him in,' says Lady Tippins, sportively waving her
green fan.  'Veneering for ever!'

'We'll bring him in!' says Twemlow.

'We'll bring him in!' say Boots and Brewer.

Strictly speaking, it would be hard to show cause why they should
not bring him in, Pocket-Breaches having closed its little bargain,
and there being no opposition.  However, it is agreed that they
must 'work' to the last, and that if they did not work, something
indefinite would happen.  It is likewise agreed that they are all so
exhausted with the work behind them, and need to be so fortified
for the work before them, as to require peculiar strengthening
from Veneering's cellar.  Therefore, the Analytical has orders to
produce the cream of the cream of his binns, and therefore it falls
out that rallying becomes rather a trying word for the occasion;
Lady Tippins being observed gamely to inculcate the necessity of
rearing round their dear Veneering; Podsnap advocating roaring
round him; Boots and Brewer declaring their intention of reeling
round him; and Veneering thanking his devoted friends one and
all, with great emotion, for rarullarulling round him.

In these inspiring moments, Brewer strikes out an idea which is
the great hit of the day.  He consults his watch, and says (like Guy
Fawkes), he'll now go down to the House of Commons and see
how things look.

'I'll keep about the lobby for an hour or so,' says Brewer, with a
deeply mysterious countenance, 'and if things look well, I won't
come back, but will order my cab for nine in the morning.'

'You couldn't do better,' says Podsnap.

Veneering expresses his inability ever to acknowledge this last
service.  Tears stand in Mrs Veneering's affectionate eyes.  Boots
shows envy, loses ground, and is regarded as possessing a second-
rate mind.  They all crowd to the door, to see Brewer off.  Brewer
says to his driver, 'Now, is your horse pretty fresh?' eyeing the
animal with critical scrutiny.  Driver says he's as fresh as butter.
'Put him along then,' says Brewer; 'House of Commons.'  Driver
darts up, Brewer leaps in, they cheer him as he departs, and Mr
Podsnap says, 'Mark my words, sir.  That's a man of resource;
that's a man to make his way in life.'

When the time comes for Veneering to deliver a neat and
appropriate stammer to the men of Pocket-Breaches, only
Podsnap and Twemlow accompany him by railway to that
sequestered spot.  The legal gentleman is at the Pocket-Breaches
Branch Station, with an open carriage with a printed bill
'Veneering for ever' stuck upon it, as if it were a wall; and they
gloriously proceed, amidst the grins of the populace, to a feeble
little town hall on crutches, with some onions and bootlaces under
it, which the legal gentleman says are a Market; and from the
front window of that edifice Veneering speaks to the listening
earth.  In the moment of his taking his hat off, Podsnap, as per
agreement made with Mrs Veneering, telegraphs to that wife and
mother, 'He's up.'

Veneering loses his way in the usual No Thoroughfares of speech,
and Podsnap and Twemlow say Hear hear! and sometimes, when
he can't by any means back himself out of some very unlucky No
Thoroughfare, 'He-a-a-r He-a-a-r!' with an air of facetious
conviction, as if the ingenuity of the thing gave them a sensation
of exquisite pleasure.  But Veneering makes two remarkably good
points; so good, that they are supposed to have been suggested to
him by the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence, while briefly
conferring on the stairs.

Point the first is this.  Veneering institutes an original comparison
between the country, and a ship; pointedly calling the ship, the
Vessel of the State, and the Minister the Man at the Helm.
Veneering's object is to let Pocket-Breaches know that his friend
on his right (Podsnap) is a man of wealth.  Consequently says he,
'And, gentlemen, when the timbers of the Vessel of the State are
unsound and the Man at the Helm is unskilful, would those great
Marine Insurers, who rank among our world-famed merchant-
princes--would they insure her, gentlemen?  Would they
underwrite her?  Would they incur a risk in her?  Would they have
confidence in her?  Why, gentlemen, if I appealed to my
honourable friend upon my right, himself among the greatest and
most respected of that great and much respected class, he would
answer No!'

Point the second is this.  The telling fact that Twemlow is related
to Lord Snigsworth, must be let off.  Veneering supposes a state of
public affairs that probably never could by any possibility exist
(though this is not quite certain, in consequence of his picture
being unintelligible to himself and everybody else), and thus
proceeds.  'Why, gentlemen, if I were to indicate such a
programme to any class of society, I say it would be received with
derision, would be pointed at by the finger of scorn.  If I indicated
such a programme to any worthy and intelligent tradesman of your
town--nay, I will here be personal, and say Our town--what would
he reply?  He would reply, "Away with it!"  That's what HE would
reply, gentlemen.  In his honest indignation he would reply,
"Away with it!"  But suppose I mounted higher in the social scale.
Suppose I drew my arm through the arm of my respected friend
upon my left, and, walking with him through the ancestral woods
of his family, and under the spreading beeches of Snigsworthy
Park, approached the noble hall, crossed the courtyard, entered by
the door, went up the staircase, and, passing from room to room,
found myself at last in the august presence of my friend's near
kinsman, Lord Snigsworth.  And suppose I said to that venerable
earl, "My Lord, I am here before your lordship, presented by your
lordship's near kinsman, my friend upon my left, to indicate that
programme;" what would his lordship answer?  Why, he would
answer, "Away with it!"  That's what he would answer, gentlemen.
"Away with it!"  Unconsciously using, in his exalted sphere, the
exact language of the worthy and intelligent tradesman of our
town, the near and dear kinsman of my friend upon my left would
answer in his wrath, "Away with it!"'

Veneering finishes with this last success, and Mr Podsnap
telegraphs to Mrs Veneering, 'He's down.'

Then, dinner is had at the Hotel with the legal gentleman, and then
there are in due succession, nomination, and declaration.  Finally
Mr Podsnap telegraphs to Mrs Veneering, 'We have brought him
in.'

Another gorgeous dinner awaits them on their return to the
Veneering halls, and Lady Tippins awaits them, and Boots and
Brewer await them.  There is a modest assertion on everybody's
part that everybody single-handed 'brought him in'; but in the main
it is conceded by all, that that stroke of business on Brewer's part,
in going down to the house that night to see how things looked,
was the master-stroke.

A touching little incident is related by Mrs Veneering, in the
course of the evening.  Mrs Veneering is habitually disposed to be
tearful, and has an extra disposition that way after her late
excitement.  Previous to withdrawing from the dinner-table with
Lady Tippins, she says, in a pathetic and physically weak manner:

'You will all think it foolish of me, I know, but I must mention it.
As I sat by Baby's crib, on the night before the election, Baby was
very uneasy in her sleep.'

The Analytical chemist, who is gloomily looking on, has diabolical
impulses to suggest 'Wind' and throw up his situation; but
represses them.

'After an interval almost convulsive, Baby curled her little hands
in one another and smiled.'

Mrs Veneering stopping here, Mr Podsnap deems it incumbent on
him to say: 'I wonder why!'

'Could it be, I asked myself,' says Mrs Veneering, looking about
her for her pocket-handkerchief, 'that the Fairies were telling
Baby that her papa would shortly be an M. P.?'

So overcome by the sentiment is Mrs Veneering, that they all get
up to make a clear stage for Veneering, who goes round the table
to the rescue, and bears her out backward, with her feet
impressively scraping the carpet: after remarking that her work
has been too much for her strength.  Whether the fairies made any
mention of the five thousand pounds, and it disagreed with Baby,
is not speculated upon.

Poor little Twemlow, quite done up, is touched, and still continues
touched after he is safely housed over the livery-stable yard in
Duke Street, Saint James's.  But there, upon his sofa, a tremendous
consideration breaks in upon the mild gentleman, putting all softer
considerations to the rout.

'Gracious heavens!  Now I have time to think of it, he never saw
one of his constituents in all his days, until we saw them together!'

After having paced the room in distress of mind, with his hand to
his forehead, the innocent Twemlow returns to his sofa and
moans:

'I shall either go distracted, or die, of this man.  He comes upon
me too late in life.  I am not strong enough to bear him!'



Chapter 4

CUPID PROMPTED


To use the cold language of the world, Mrs Alfred Lammle rapidly
improved the acquaintance of Miss Podsnap.  To use the warm
language of Mrs Lammle, she and her sweet Georgiana soon
became one: in heart, in mind, in sentiment, in soul.

Whenever Georgiana could escape from the thraldom of
Podsnappery; could throw off the bedclothes of the custard-
coloured phaeton, and get up; could shrink out of the range of her
mother's rocking, and (so to speak) rescue her poor little frosty
toes from being rocked over; she repaired to her friend, Mrs
Alfred Lammle.  Mrs Podsnap by no means objected.  As a
consciously 'splendid woman,' accustomed to overhear herself so
denominated by elderly osteologists pursuing their studies in
dinner society, Mrs Podsnap could dispense with her daughter.
Mr Podsnap, for his part, on being informed where Georgiana
was, swelled with patronage of the Lammles.  That they, when
unable to lay hold of him, should respectfully grasp at the hem of
his mantle; that they, when they could not bask in the glory of him
the sun, should take up with the pale reflected light of the watery
young moon his daughter; appeared quite natural, becoming, and
proper.  It gave him a better opinion of the discretion of the
Lammles than he had heretofore held, as showing that they
appreciated the value of the connexion.  So, Georgiana repairing
to her friend, Mr Podsnap went out to dinner, and to dinner, and
yet to dinner, arm in arm with Mrs Podsnap: settling his obstinate
head in his cravat and shirt-collar, much as if he were performing
on the Pandean pipes, in his own honour, the triumphal march,
See the conquering Podsnap comes, Sound the trumpets, beat the
drums!

It was a trait in Mr Podsnap's character (and in one form or other
it will be generally seen to pervade the depths and shallows of
Podsnappery), that he could not endure a hint of disparagement of
any friend or acquaintance of his.  'How dare you?' he would seem
to say, in such a case.  'What do you mean?  I have licensed this
person.  This person has taken out MY certificate.  Through this
person you strike at me, Podsnap the Great.  And it is not that I
particularly care for the person's dignity, but that I do most
particularly care for Podsnap's.'  Hence, if any one in his presence
had presumed to doubt the responsibility of the Lammles, he
would have been mightily huffed.  Not that any one did, for
Veneering, M.P., was always the authority for their being very
rich, and perhaps believed it.  As indeed he might, if he chose, for
anything he knew of the matter.

Mr and Mrs Lammle's house in Sackville Street, Piccadilly, was
but a temporary residence.  It has done well enough, they
informed their friends, for Mr Lammle when a bachelor, but it
would not do now.  So, they were always looking at palatial
residences in the best situations, and always very nearly taking or
buying one, but never quite concluding the bargain.  Hereby they
made for themselves a shining little reputation apart.  People said,
on seeing a vacant palatial residence, 'The very thing for the
Lammles!' and wrote to the Lammles about it, and the Lammles
always went to look at it, but unfortunately it never exactly
answered.  In short, they suffered so many disappointments, that
they began to think it would be necessary to build a palatial
residence.  And hereby they made another shining reputation;
many persons of their acquaintance becoming by anticipation
dissatisfied with their own houses, and envious of the non-existent
Lammle structure.

The handsome fittings and furnishings of the house in Sackville
Street were piled thick and high over the skeleton up-stairs, and if
it ever whispered from under its load of upholstery, 'Here I am in
the closet!' it was to very few ears, and certainly never to Miss
Podsnap's.  What Miss Podsnap was particularly charmed with,
next to the graces of her friend, was the happiness of her friend's
married life.  This was frequently their theme of conversation.

'I am sure,' said Miss Podsnap, 'Mr Lammle is like a lover.  At
least I--I should think he was.'

'Georgiana, darling!' said Mrs Lammle, holding up a forefinger,
'Take care!'

'Oh my goodness me!' exclaimed Miss Podsnap, reddening.  'What
have I said now?'

'Alfred, you know,' hinted Mrs Lammle, playfully shaking her
head.  'You were never to say Mr Lammle any more, Georgiana.'

'Oh!  Alfred, then.  I am glad it's no worse.  I was afraid I had said
something shocking.  I am always saying something wrong to ma.'

'To me, Georgiana dearest?'

'No, not to you; you are not ma.  I wish you were.'

Mrs Lammle bestowed a sweet and loving smile upon her friend,
which Miss Podsnap returned as she best could.  They sat at lunch
in Mrs Lammle's own boudoir.

'And so, dearest Georgiana, Alfred is like your notion of a lover?'

'I don't say that, Sophronia,' Georgiana replied, beginning to
conceal her elbows.  'I haven't any notion of a lover.  The dreadful
wretches that ma brings up at places to torment me, are not lovers.
I only mean that Mr--'

'Again, dearest Georgiana?'

'That Alfred--'

'Sounds much better, darling.'

'--Loves you so.  He always treats you with such delicate gallantry
and attention.  Now, don't he?'

'Truly, my dear,' said Mrs Lammle, with a rather singular
expression crossing her face.  'I believe that he loves me, fully as
much as I love him.'

'Oh, what happiness!' exclaimed Miss Podsnap.

'But do you know, my Georgiana,' Mrs Lammle resumed
presently, 'that there is something suspicious in your enthusiastic
sympathy with Alfred's tenderness?'

'Good gracious no, I hope not!'

'Doesn't it rather suggest,' said Mrs Lammle archly, 'that my
Georgiana's little heart is--'

'Oh don't!'  Miss Podsnap blushingly besought her.  'Please don't!
I assure you, Sophronia, that I only praise Alfred, because he is
your husband and so fond of you.'

Sophronia's glance was as if a rather new light broke in upon her.
It shaded off into a cool smile, as she said, with her eyes upon her
lunch, and her eyebrows raised:

'You are quite wrong, my love, in your guess at my meaning.
What I insinuated was, that my Georgiana's little heart was
growing conscious of a vacancy.'

'No, no, no,' said Georgiana.  'I wouldn't have anybody say
anything to me in that way for I don't know how many thousand
pounds.'

'In what way, my Georgiana?' inquired Mrs Lammle, still smiling
coolly with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised.

'YOU know,' returned poor little Miss Podsnap.  'I think I should
go out of my mind, Sophronia, with vexation and shyness and
detestation, if anybody did.  It's enough for me to see how loving
you and your husband are.  That's a different thing.  I couldn't
bear to have anything of that sort going on with myself.  I should
beg and pray to--to have the person taken away and trampled
upon.'

Ah! here was Alfred.  Having stolen in unobserved, he playfully
leaned on the back of Sophronia's chair, and, as Miss Podsnap saw
him, put one of Sophronia's wandering locks to his lips, and waved
a kiss from it towards Miss Podsnap.

'What is this about husbands and detestations?' inquired the
captivating Alfred.

'Why, they say,' returned his wife, 'that listeners never hear any
good of themselves; though you--but pray how long have you
been here, sir?'

'This instant arrived, my own.'

'Then I may go on--though if you had been here but a moment or
two sooner, you would have heard your praises sounded by
Georgiana.'

'Only, if they were to be called praises at all which I really don't
think they were,' explained Miss Podsnap in a flutter, 'for being so
devoted to Sophronia.'

'Sophronia!' murmured Alfred.  'My life!' and kissed her hand.  In
return for which she kissed his watch-chain.

'But it was not I who was to be taken away and trampled upon, I
hope?' said Alfred, drawing a seat between them.

'Ask Georgiana, my soul,' replied his wife.

Alfred touchingly appealed to Georgiana.

'Oh, it was nobody,' replied Miss Podsnap.  'It was nonsense.'

'But if you are determined to know, Mr Inquisitive Pet, as I
suppose you are,' said the happy and fond Sophronia, smiling, 'it
was any one who should venture to aspire to Georgiana.'

'Sophronia, my love,' remonstrated Mr Lammle, becoming graver,
'you are not serious?'

'Alfred, my love,' returned his wife, 'I dare say Georgiana was not,
but I am.'

'Now this,' said Mr Lammle, 'shows the accidental combinations
that there are in things!  Could you believe, my Ownest, that I
came in here with the name of an aspirant to our Georgiana on my
lips?'

'Of course I could believe, Alfred,' said Mrs Lammle, 'anything
that YOU told me.'

'You dear one!  And I anything that YOU told me.'

How delightful those interchanges, and the looks accompanying
them!  Now, if the skeleton up-stairs had taken that opportunity,
for instance, of calling out 'Here I am, suffocating in the closet!'

'I give you my honour, my dear Sophronia--'

'And I know what that is, love,' said she.

'You do, my darling--that I came into the room all but uttering
young Fledgeby's name.  Tell Georgiana, dearest, about young
Fledgeby.'

'Oh no, don't!  Please don't!' cried Miss Podsnap, putting her
fingers in her ears.  'I'd rather not.'

Mrs Lammle laughed in her gayest manner, and, removing her
Georgiana's unresisting hands, and playfully holding them in her
own at arms' length, sometimes near together and sometimes wide
apart, went on:

'You must know, you dearly beloved little goose, that once upon a
time there was a certain person called young Fledgeby.  And this
young Fledgeby, who was of an excellent family and rich, was
known to two other certain persons, dearly attached to one
another and called Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle.  So this young
Fledgeby, being one night at the play, there sees with Mr and Mrs
Alfred Lammle, a certain heroine called--'

'No, don't say Georgiana Podsnap!' pleaded that young lady
almost in tears.  'Please don't.  Oh do do do say somebody else!
Not Georgiana Podsnap.  Oh don't, don't, don't!'

'No other,' said Mrs Lammle, laughing airily, and, full of
affectionate blandishments, opening and closing Georgiana's arms
like a pair of compasses, than my little Georgiana Podsnap.  So
this young Fledgeby goes to that Alfred Lammle and says--'

'Oh ple-e-e-ease don't!'  Georgiana, as if the supplication were
being squeezed out of her by powerful compression.  'I so hate
him for saying it!'

'For saying what, my dear?' laughed Mrs Lammle.

'Oh, I don't know what he said,' cried Georgiana wildly, 'but I hate
him all the same for saying it.'

'My dear,' said Mrs Lammle, always laughing in her most
captivating way, 'the poor young fellow only says that he is
stricken all of a heap.'

'Oh, what shall I ever do!' interposed Georgiana.  'Oh my goodness
what a Fool he must be!'

'--And implores to be asked to dinner, and to make a fourth at the
play another time.  And so he dines to-morrow and goes to the
Opera with us.  That's all.  Except, my dear Georgiana--and what
will you think of this!--that he is infinitely shyer than you, and far
more afraid of you than you ever were of any one in all your
days!'

In perturbation of mind Miss Podsnap still fumed and plucked at
her hands a little, but could not help laughing at the notion of
anybody's being afraid of her.  With that advantage, Sophronia
flattered her and rallied her more successfully, and then the
insinuating Alfred flattered her and rallied her, and promised that
at any moment when she might require that service at his hands,
he would take young Fledgeby out and trample on him.  Thus it
remained amicably understood that young Fledgeby was to come
to admire, and that Georgiana was to come to be admired; and
Georgiana with the entirely new sensation in her breast of having
that prospect before her, and with many kisses from her dear
Sophronia in present possession, preceded six feet one of
discontented footman (an amount of the article that always came
for her when she walked home) to her father's dwelling.

The happy pair being left together, Mrs Lammle said to her
husband:

'If I understand this girl, sir, your dangerous fascinations have
produced some effect upon her.  I mention the conquest in good
time because I apprehend your scheme to be more important to
you than your vanity.'

There was a mirror on the wall before them, and her eyes just
caught him smirking in it.  She gave the reflected image a look of
the deepest disdain, and the image received it in the glass.  Next
moment they quietly eyed each other, as if they, the principals,
had had no part in that expressive transaction.

It may have been that Mrs Lammle tried in some manner to
excuse her conduct to herself by depreciating the poor little victim
of whom she spoke with acrimonious contempt.  It may have been
too that in this she did not quite succeed, for it is very difficult to
resist confidence, and she knew she had Georgiana's.

Nothing more was said between the happy pair.  Perhaps
conspirators who have once established an understanding, may
not be over-fond of repeating the terms and objects of their
conspiracy.  Next day came; came Georgiana; and came
Fledgeby.

Georgiana had by this time seen a good deal of the house and its
frequenters.  As there was a certain handsome room with a billiard
table in it--on the ground floor, eating out a backyard--which
might have been Mr Lammle's office, or library, but was called by
neither name, but simply Mr Lammle's room, so it would have
been hard for stronger female heads than Georgiana's to determine
whether its frequenters were men of pleasure or men of business.
Between the room and the men there were strong points of
general resemblance.  Both were too gaudy, too slangey, too
odorous of cigars, and too much given to horseflesh; the latter
characteristic being exemplified in the room by its decorations,
and in the men by their conversation.  High-stepping horses
seemed necessary to all Mr Lammle's friends--as necessary as
their transaction of business together in a gipsy way at untimely
hours of the morning and evening, and in rushes and snatches.
There were friends who seemed to be always coming and going
across the Channel, on errands about the Bourse, and Greek and
Spanish and India and Mexican and par and premium and discount
and three quarters and seven eighths.  There were other friends
who seemed to be always lolling and lounging in and out of the
City, on questions of the Bourse, and Greek and Spanish and India
and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths.  They were all feverish, boastful, and
indefinably loose; and they all ate and drank a great deal; and
made bets in eating and drinking.  They all spoke of sums of
money, and only mentioned the sums and left the money to be
understood; as 'five and forty thousand Tom,' or 'Two hundred and
twenty-two on every individual share in the lot Joe.'  They seemed
to divide the world into two classes of people; people who were
making enormous fortunes, and people who were being
enormously ruined.  They were always in a hurry, and yet seemed
to have nothing tangible to do; except a few of them (these,
mostly asthmatic and thick-lipped) who were for ever
demonstrating to the rest, with gold pencil-cases which they could
hardly hold because of the big rings on their forefingers, how
money was to be made.  Lastly, they all swore at their grooms,
and the grooms were not quite as respectful or complete as other
men's grooms; seeming somehow to fall short of the groom point
as their masters fell short of the gentleman point.

Young Fledgeby was none of these.  Young Fledgeby had a
peachy cheek, or a cheek compounded of the peach and the red
red red wall on which it grows, and was an awkward, sandy-
haired, small-eyed youth, exceeding slim (his enemies would have
said lanky), and prone to self-examination in the articles of
whisker and moustache.  While feeling for the whisker that he
anxiously expected, Fledgeby underwent remarkable fluctuations
of spirits, ranging along the whole scale from confidence to
despair.  There were times when he started, as exclaiming 'By
Jupiter here it is at last!'  There were other times when, being
equally depressed, he would be seen to shake his head, and give
up hope.  To see him at those periods leaning on a chimneypiece,
like as on an urn containing the ashes of his ambition, with the
cheek that would not sprout, upon the hand on which that cheek
had forced conviction, was a distressing sight.

Not so was Fledgeby seen on this occasion.  Arrayed in superb
raiment, with his opera hat under his arm, he concluded his self-
examination hopefully, awaited the arrival of Miss Podsnap, and
talked small-talk with Mrs Lammle.  In facetious homage to the
smallness of his talk, and the jerky nature of his manners,
Fledgeby's familiars had agreed to confer upon him (behind his
back) the honorary title of Fascination Fledgeby.

'Warm weather, Mrs Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby.  Mrs
Lammle thought it scarcely as warm as it had been yesterday.
'Perhaps not,' said Fascination Fledgeby, with great quickness of
repartee; 'but I expect it will be devilish warm to-morrow.'

He threw off another little scintillation.  'Been out to-day, Mrs
Lammle?'

Mrs Lammle answered, for a short drive.

'Some people,' said Fascination Fledgeby, 'are accustomed to take
long drives; but it generally appears to me that if they make 'em
too long, they overdo it.'

Being in such feather, he might have surpassed himself in his next
sally, had not Miss Podsnap been announced.  Mrs Lammle flew
to embrace her darling little Georgy, and when the first transports
were over, presented Mr Fledgeby.  Mr Lammle came on the
scene last, for he was always late, and so were the frequenters
always late; all hands being bound to be made late, by private
information about the Bourse, and Greek and Spanish and India
and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths.

A handsome little dinner was served immediately, and Mr Lammle
sat sparkling at his end of the table, with his servant behind his
chair, and HIS ever-lingering doubts upon the subject of his wages
behind himself.  Mr Lammle's utmost powers of sparkling were in
requisition to-day, for Fascination Fledgeby and Georgiana not
only struck each other speechless, but struck each other into
astonishing attitudes; Georgiana, as she sat facing Fledgeby,
making such efforts to conceal her elbows as were totally
incompatible with the use of a knife and fork; and Fledgeby, as he
sat facing Georgiana, avoiding her countenance by every possible
device, and betraying the discomposure of his mind in feeling for
his whiskers with his spoon, his wine glass, and his bread.

So, Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle had to prompt, and this is how
they prompted.

'Georgiana,' said Mr Lammle, low and smiling, and sparkling all
over, like a harlequin; 'you are not in your usual spirits.  Why are
you not in your usual spirits, Georgiana?'

Georgiana faltered that she was much the same as she was in
general; she was not aware of being different.

'Not aware of being different!' retorted Mr Alfred Lammle.  'You,
my dear Georgiana!  Who are always so natural and
unconstrained with us!  Who are such a relief from the crowd that
are all alike!  Who are the embodiment of gentleness, simplicity,
and reality!'

Miss Podsnap looked at the door, as if she entertained confused
thoughts of taking refuge from these compliments in flight.

'Now, I will be judged,' said Mr Lammle, raising his voice a little,
'by my friend Fledgeby.'

'Oh DON'T!' Miss Podsnap faintly ejaculated: when Mrs Lammle
took the prompt-book.

'I beg your pardon, Alfred, my dear, but I cannot part with Mr
Fledgeby quite yet; you must wait for him a moment.  Mr
Fledgeby and I are engaged in a personal discussion.'

Fledgeby must have conducted it on his side with immense art, for
no appearance of uttering one syllable had escaped him.

'A personal discussion, Sophronia, my love?  What discussion?
Fledgeby, I am jealous.  What discussion, Fledgeby?'

'Shall I tell him, Mr Fledgeby?' asked Mrs Lammle.

Trying to look as if he knew anything about it, Fascination replied,
'Yes, tell him.'

'We were discussing then,' said Mrs Lammle, 'if you MUST know,
Alfred, whether Mr Fledgeby was in his usual flow of spirits.'

'Why, that is the very point, Sophronia, that Georgiana and I were
discussing as to herself!  What did Fledgeby say?'

'Oh, a likely thing, sir, that I am going to tell you everything, and
be told nothing!  What did Georgiana say?'

'Georgiana said she was doing her usual justice to herself to-day,
and I said she was not.'

'Precisely,' exclaimed Mrs Lammle, 'what I said to Mr Fledgeby.'
Still, it wouldn't do.  They would not look at one another.  No, not
even when the sparkling host proposed that the quartette should
take an appropriately sparkling glass of wine.  Georgiana looked
from her wine glass at Mr Lammle and at Mrs Lammle; but
mightn't, couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, look at Mr Fledgeby.
Fascination looked from his wine glass at Mrs Lammle and at Mr
Lammle; but mightn't, couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, look at
Georgiana.

More prompting was necessary.  Cupid must be brought up to the
mark.  The manager had put him down in the bill for the part, and
he must play it.

'Sophronia, my dear,' said Mr Lammle, 'I don't like the colour of
your dress.'

'I appeal,' said Mrs Lammle, 'to Mr Fledgeby.'

'And I,' said Mr Lammle, 'to Georgiana.'

'Georgy, my love,' remarked Mrs Lammle aside to her dear girl, 'I
rely upon you not to go over to the opposition.  Now, Mr
Fledgeby.'

Fascination wished to know if the colour were not called rose-
colour?  Yes, said Mr Lammle; actually he knew everything; it
was really rose-colour.  Fascination took rose-colour to mean the
colour of roses.  (In this he was very warmly supported by Mr and
Mrs Lammle.)  Fascination had heard the term Queen of Flowers
applied to the Rose.  Similarly, it might be said that the dress was
the Queen of Dresses.  ('Very happy, Fledgeby!' from Mr
Lammle.)  Notwithstanding, Fascination's opinion was that we all
had our eyes--or at least a large majority of us--and that--and--and
his farther opinion was several ands, with nothing beyond them.

'Oh, Mr Fledgeby,' said Mrs Lammle, 'to desert me in that way!
Oh, Mr Fledgeby, to abandon my poor dear injured rose and
declare for blue!'

'Victory, victory!' cried Mr Lammle; 'your dress is condemned, my
dear.'

'But what,' said Mrs Lammle, stealing her affectionate hand
towards her dear girl's, 'what does Georgy say?'

'She says,' replied Mr Lammle, interpreting for her, 'that in her
eyes you look well in any colour, Sophronia, and that if she had
expected to be embarrassed by so pretty a compliment as she has
received, she would have worn another colour herself.  Though I
tell her, in reply, that it would not have saved her, for whatever
colour she had worn would have been Fledgeby's colour.  But
what does Fledgeby say?'

'He says,' replied Mrs Lammle, interpreting for him, and patting
the back of her dear girl's hand, as if it were Fledgeby who was
patting it, 'that it was no compliment, but a little natural act of
homage that he couldn't resist.  And,' expressing more feeling as if
it were more feeling on the part of Fledgeby, 'he is right, he is
right!'

Still, no not even now, would they look at one another.  Seeming
to gnash his sparkling teeth, studs, eyes, and buttons, all at once,
Mr Lammle secretly bent a dark frown on the two, expressive of
an intense desire to bring them together by knocking their heads
together.

'Have you heard this opera of to-night, Fledgeby?' he asked,
stopping very short, to prevent himself from running on into
'confound you.'

'Why no, not exactly,' said Fledgeby.  'In fact I don't know a note
of it.'

'Neither do you know it, Georgy?' said Mrs Lammle.  'N-no,'
replied Georgiana, faintly, under the sympathetic coincidence.

'Why, then,' said Mrs Lammle, charmed by the discovery which
flowed from the premises, 'you neither of you know it!  How
charming!'

Even the craven Fledgeby felt that the time was now come when
he must strike a blow.  He struck it by saying, partly to Mrs
Lammle and partly to the circumambient air, 'I consider myself
very fortunate in being reserved by--'

As he stopped dead, Mr Lammle, making that gingerous bush of
his whiskers to look out of, offered him the word 'Destiny.'

'No, I wasn't going to say that,' said Fledgeby.  'I was going to say
Fate.  I consider it very fortunate that Fate has written in the book
of--in the book which is its own property--that I should go to that
opera for the first time under the memorable circumstances of
going with Miss Podsnap.'

To which Georgiana replied, hooking her two little fingers in one
another, and addressing the tablecloth, 'Thank you, but I generally
go with no one but you, Sophronia, and I like that very much.'

Content perforce with this success for the time, Mr Lammle let
Miss Podsnap out of the room, as if he were opening her cage
door, and Mrs Lammle followed.  Coffee being presently served
up stairs, he kept a watch on Fledgeby until Miss Podsnap's cup
was empty, and then directed him with his finger (as if that young
gentleman were a slow Retriever) to go and fetch it.  This feat he
performed, not only without failure, but even with the original
embellishment of informing Miss Podsnap that green tea was
considered bad for the nerves.  Though there Miss Podsnap
unintentionally threw him out by faltering, 'Oh, is it indeed?  How
does it act?'  Which he was not prepared to elucidate.

The carriage announced, Mrs Lammle said; 'Don't mind me, Mr
Fledgeby, my skirts and cloak occupy both my hands, take Miss
Podsnap.'  And he took her, and Mrs Lammle went next, and Mr
Lammle went last, savagely following his little flock, like a drover.

But he was all sparkle and glitter in the box at the Opera, and
there he and his dear wife made a conversation between Fledgeby
and Georgiana in the following ingenious and skilful manner.
They sat in this order: Mrs Lammle, Fascination Fledgeby,
Georgiana, Mr Lammle.  Mrs Lammle made leading remarks to
Fledgeby, only requiring monosyllabic replies.  Mr Lammle did
the like with Georgiana.  At times Mrs Lammle would lean
forward to address Mr Lammle to this purpose.

'Alfred, my dear, Mr Fledgeby very justly says, apropos of the last
scene, that true constancy would not require any such stimulant as
the stage deems necessary.'  To which Mr Lammle would reply,
'Ay, Sophronia, my love, but as Georgiana has observed to me, the
lady had no sufficient reason to know the state of the gentleman's
affections.'  To which Mrs Lammle would rejoin, 'Very true,
Alfred; but Mr Fledgeby points out,' this.  To which Alfred would
demur: 'Undoubtedly, Sophronia, but Georgiana acutely remarks,'
that.  Through this device the two young people conversed at
great length and committed themselves to a variety of delicate
sentiments, without having once opened their lips, save to say yes
or no, and even that not to one another.

Fledgeby took his leave of Miss Podsnap at the carriage door, and
the Lammles dropped her at her own home, and on the way Mrs
Lammle archly rallied her, in her fond and protecting manner, by
saying at intervals, 'Oh little Georgiana, little Georgiana!'  Which
was not much; but the tone added, 'You have enslaved your
Fledgeby.'

And thus the Lammles got home at last, and the lady sat down
moody and weary, looking at her dark lord engaged in a deed of
violence with a bottle of soda-water as though he were wringing
the neck of some unlucky creature and pouring its blood down his
throat.  As he wiped his dripping whiskers in an ogreish way, he
met her eyes, and pausing, said, with no very gentle voice:

'Well?'

'Was such an absolute Booby necessary to the purpose?'

'I know what I am doing.  He is no such dolt as you suppose.'

'A genius, perhaps?'

'You sneer, perhaps; and you take a lofty air upon yourself
perhaps!  But I tell you this:--when that young fellow's interest is
concerned, he holds as tight as a horse-leech.  When money is in
question with that young fellow, he is a match for the Devil.'

'Is he a match for you?'

'He is.  Almost as good a one as you thought me for you.  He has
no quality of youth in him, but such as you have seen to-day.
Touch him upon money, and you touch no booby then.  He really
is a dolt, I suppose, in other things; but it answers his one purpose
very well.'

'Has she money in her own right in any case?'

'Ay! she has money in her own right in any case.  You have done
so well to-day, Sophronia, that I answer the question, though you
know I object to any such questions.  You have done so well to-
day, Sophronia, that you must be tired.  Get to bed.'



Chapter 5

MERCURY PROMPTING


Fledgeby deserved Mr Alfred Lammle's eulogium.  He was the
meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs.  And instinct (a
word we all clearly understand) going largely on four legs, and
reason always on two, meanness on four legs never attains the
perfection of meanness on two.

The father of this young gentleman had been a money-lender, who
had transacted professional business with the mother of this young
gentleman, when he, the latter, was waiting in the vast dark ante-
chambers of the present world to be born.  The lady, a widow,
being unable to pay the money-lender, married him; and in due
course, Fledgeby was summoned out of the vast dark ante-
chambers to come and be presented to the Registrar-General.
Rather a curious speculation how Fledgeby would otherwise have
disposed of his leisure until Doomsday.

Fledgeby's mother offended her family by marrying Fledgeby's
father.  It is one of the easiest achievements in life to offend your
family when your family want to get rid of you.  Fledgeby's
mother's family had been very much offended with her for being
poor, and broke with her for becoming comparatively rich.
Fledgeby's mother's family was the Snigsworth family.  She had
even the high honour to be cousin to Lord Snigsworth--so many
times removed that the noble Earl would have had no
compunction in removing her one time more and dropping her
clean outside the cousinly pale; but cousin for all that.

Among her pre-matrimonial transactions with Fledgeby's father,
Fledgeby's mother had raised money of him at a great
disadvantage on a certain reversionary interest.  The reversion
falling in soon after they were married, Fledgeby's father laid hold
of the cash for his separate use and benefit.  This led to subjective
differences of opinion, not to say objective interchanges of boot-
jacks, backgammon boards, and other such domestic missiles,
between Fledgeby's father and Fledgeby's mother, and those led to
Fledgeby's mother spending as much money as she could, and to
Fledgeby's father doing all he couldn't to restrain her.  Fledgeby's
childhood had been, in consequence, a stormy one; but the winds
and the waves had gone down in the grave, and Fledgeby
flourished alone.

He lived in chambers in the Albany, did Fledgeby, and maintained
a spruce appearance.  But his youthful fire was all composed of
sparks from the grindstone; and as the sparks flew off, went out,
and never warmed anything, be sure that Fledgeby had his tools at
the grindstone, and turned it with a wary eye.

Mr Alfred Lammle came round to the Albany to breakfast with
Fledgeby.  Present on the table, one scanty pot of tea, one scanty
loaf, two scanty pats of butter, two scanty rashers of bacon, two
pitiful eggs, and an abundance of handsome china bought a
secondhand bargain.

'What did you think of Georgiana?' asked Mr Lammle.

'Why, I'll tell you,' said Fledgeby, very deliberately.

'Do, my boy.'

'You misunderstand me,' said Fledgeby.  'I don't mean I'll tell you
that.  I mean I'll tell you something else.'

'Tell me anything, old fellow!'

'Ah, but there you misunderstand me again,' said Fledgeby.  'I
mean I'll tell you nothing.'

Mr Lammle sparkled at him, but frowned at him too.

'Look here,' said Fledgeby.  'You're deep and you're ready.
Whether I am deep or not, never mind.  I am not ready.  But I can
do one thing, Lammle, I can hold my tongue.  And I intend always
doing it.'

'You are a long-headed fellow, Fledgeby.'

'May be, or may not be.  If I am a short-tongued fellow, it may
amount to the same thing.  Now, Lammle, I am never going to
answer questions.'

'My dear fellow, it was the simplest question in the world.'

'Never mind.  It seemed so, but things are not always what they
seem.  I saw a man examined as a witness in Westminster Hall.
Questions put to him seemed the simplest in the world, but turned
out to be anything rather than that, after he had answered 'em.
Very well.  Then he should have held his tongue.  If he had held
his tongue he would have kept out of scrapes that he got into.'

'If I had held my tongue, you would never have seen the subject of
my question,' remarked Lammle, darkening.

'Now, Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby, calmly feeling for his
whisker, 'it won't do.  I won't be led on into a discussion.  I can't
manage a discussion.  But I can manage to hold my tongue.'

'Can?'  Mr Lammle fell back upon propitiation.  'I should think you
could!  Why, when these fellows of our acquaintance drink and
you drink with them, the more talkative they get, the more silent
you get.  The more they let out, the more you keep in.'

'I don't object, Lammle,' returned Fledgeby, with an internal
chuckle, 'to being understood, though I object to being questioned.
That certainly IS the way I do it.'

'And when all the rest of us are discussing our ventures, none of us
ever know what a single venture of yours is!'

'And none of you ever will from me, Lammle,' replied Fledgeby,
with another internal chuckle; 'that certainly IS the way I do it.'

'Why of course it is, I know!' rejoined Lammle, with a flourish of
frankness, and a laugh, and stretching out his hands as if to show
the universe a remarkable man in Fledgeby.  'If I hadn't known it
of my Fledgeby, should I have proposed our little compact of
advantage, to my Fledgeby?'

'Ah!' remarked Fascination, shaking his head slyly.  'But I am not
to be got at in that way.  I am not vain.  That sort of vanity don't
pay, Lammle.  No, no, no.  Compliments only make me hold my
tongue the more.'

Alfred Lammle pushed his plate away (no great sacrifice under
the circumstances of there being so little in it), thrust his hands in
his pockets, leaned back in his chair, and contemplated Fledgeby
in silence.  Then he slowly released his left hand from its pocket,
and made that bush of his whiskers, still contemplating him in
silence.  Then he slowly broke silence, and slowly said: 'What--
the--Dev-il is this fellow about this morning?'

'Now, look here, Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby, with the
meanest of twinkles in his meanest of eyes: which were too near
together, by the way: 'look here, Lammle; I am very well aware
that I didn't show to advantage last night, and that you and your
wife--who, I consider, is a very clever woman and an agreeable
woman--did.  I am not calculated to show to advantage under that
sort of circumstances.  I know very well you two did show to
advantage, and managed capitally.  But don't you on that account
come talking to me as if I was your doll and puppet, because I am
not.

'And all this,' cried Alfred, after studying with a look the meanness
that was fain to have the meanest help, and yet was so mean as to
turn upon it: 'all this because of one simple natural question!'

'You should have waited till I thought proper to say something
about it of myself.  I don't like your coming over me with your
Georgianas, as if you was her proprietor and mine too.'

'Well, when you are in the gracious mind to say anything about it
of yourself,' retorted Lammle, 'pray do.'

'I have done it.  I have said you managed capitally.  You and your
wife both.  If you'll go on managing capitally, I'll go on doing my
part.  Only don't crow.'

'I crow!' exclaimed Lammle, shrugging his shoulders.

'Or,' pursued the other--'or take it in your head that people are
your puppets because they don't come out to advantage at the
particular moments when you do, with the assistance of a very
clever and agreeable wife.  All the rest keep on doing, and let Mrs
Lammle keep on doing.  Now, I have held my tongue when I
thought proper, and I have spoken when I thought proper, and
there's an end of that.  And now the question is,' proceeded
Fledgeby, with the greatest reluctance, 'will you have another
egg?'

'No, I won't,' said Lammle, shortly.

'Perhaps you're right and will find yourself better without it,'
replied Fascination, in greatly improved spirits.  'To ask you if
you'll have another rasher would be unmeaning flattery, for it
would make you thirsty all day.  Will you have some more bread
and butter?'

'No, I won't,' repeated Lammle.

'Then I will,' said Fascination.  And it was not a mere retort for the
sound's sake, but was a cheerful cogent consequence of the
refusal; for if Lammle had applied himself again to the loaf, it
would have been so heavily visited, in Fledgeby's opinion, as to
demand abstinence from bread, on his part, for the remainder of
that meal at least, if not for the whole of the next.

Whether this young gentleman (for he was but three-and-twenty)
combined with the miserly vice of an old man, any of the open-
handed vices of a young one, was a moot point; so very
honourably did he keep his own counsel.  He was sensible of the
value of appearances as an investment, and liked to dress well; but
he drove a bargain for every moveable about him, from the coat
on his back to the china on his breakfast-table; and every bargain
by representing somebody's ruin or somebody's loss, acquired a
peculiar charm for him.  It was a part of his avarice to take, within
narrow bounds, long odds at races; if he won, he drove harder
bargains; if he lost, he half starved himself until next time.  Why
money should be so precious to an Ass too dull and mean to
exchange it for any other satisfaction, is strange; but there is no
animal so sure to get laden with it, as the Ass who sees nothing
written on the face of the earth and sky but the three letters L. S.
D.--not Luxury, Sensuality, Dissoluteness, which they often stand
for, but the three dry letters.  Your concentrated Fox is seldom
comparable to your concentrated Ass in money-breeding.

Fascination Fledgeby feigned to be a young gentleman living on
his means, but was known secretly to be a kind of outlaw in the
bill-broking line, and to put money out at high interest in various
ways.  His circle of familiar acquaintance, from Mr Lammle
round, all had a touch of the outlaw, as to their rovings in the
merry greenwood of Jobbery Forest, lying on the outskirts of the
Share-Market and the Stock Exchange.

'I suppose you, Lammle,' said Fledgeby, eating his bread and
butter, 'always did go in for female society?'

'Always,' replied Lammle, glooming considerably under his late
treatment.

'Came natural to you, eh?' said Fledgeby.

'The sex were pleased to like me, sir,' said Lammle sulkily, but
with the air of a man who had not been able to help himself.

'Made a pretty good thing of marrying, didn't you?' asked
Fledgeby.

The other smiled (an ugly smile), and tapped one tap upon his
nose.

'My late governor made a mess of it,' said Fledgeby.  'But Geor--is
the right name Georgina or Georgiana?'

'Georgiana.'

'I was thinking yesterday, I didn't know there was such a name.  I
thought it must end in ina.

'Why?'

'Why, you play--if you can--the Concertina, you know,' replied
Fledgeby, meditating very slowly.  'And you have--when you
catch it--the Scarlatina.  And you can come down from a balloon
in a parach--no you can't though.  Well, say Georgeute--I mean
Georgiana.'

'You were going to remark of Georgiana--?'  Lammle moodily
hinted, after waiting in vain.

'I was going to remark of Georgiana, sir,' said Fledgeby, not at all
pleased to be reminded of his having forgotten it, 'that she don't
seem to be violent.  Don't seem to be of the pitching-in order.'

'She has the gentleness of the dove, Mr Fledgeby.'

'Of course you'll say so,' replied Fledgeby, sharpening, the moment
his interest was touched by another.  'But you know, the real look-
out is this:--what I say, not what you say.  I say having my late
governor and my late mother in my eye--that Georgiana don't
seem to be of the pitching-in order.'

The respected Mr Lammle was a bully, by nature and by usual
practice.  Perceiving, as Fledgeby's affronts cumulated, that
conciliation by no means answered the purpose here, he now
directed a scowling look into Fledgeby's small eyes for the effect
of the opposite treatment.  Satisfied by what he saw there, he
burst into a violent passion and struck his hand upon the table,
making the china ring and dance.

'You are a very offensive fellow, sir,' cried Mr Lammle, rising.
'You are a highly offensive scoundrel.  What do you mean by this
behaviour?'

'I say!' remonstrated Fledgeby.  'Don't break out.'

'You are a very offensive fellow sir,' repeated Mr Lammle.  'You
are a highly offensive scoundrel!'

'I SAY, you know!' urged Fledgeby, quailing.

'Why, you coarse and vulgar vagabond!' said Mr Lammle, looking
fiercely about him, 'if your servant was here to give me sixpence
of your money to get my boots cleaned afterwards--for you are
not worth the expenditure--I'd kick you.'

'No you wouldn't,' pleaded Fledgeby.  'I am sure you'd think better
of it.'

'I tell you what, Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle advancing on him.
'Since you presume to contradict me, I'll assert myself a little.
Give me your nose!'

Fledgeby covered it with his hand instead, and said, retreating, 'I
beg you won't!'

'Give me your nose, sir,' repeated Lammle.

Still covering that feature and backing, Mr Fledgeby reiterated
(apparently with a severe cold in his head), 'I beg, I beg, you
won't.'

'And this fellow,' exclaimed Lammle, stopping and making the
most of his chest--'This fellow presumes on my having selected
him out of all the young fellows I know, for an advantageous
opportunity!  This fellow presumes on my having in my desk
round the corner, his dirty note of hand for a wretched sum
payable on the occurrence of a certain event, which event can
only be of my and my wife's bringing about!  This fellow,
Fledgeby, presumes to be impertinent to me, Lammle.  Give me
your nose sir!'

'No!  Stop!  I beg your pardon,' said Fledgeby, with humility.

'What do you say, sir?' demanded Mr Lammle, seeming too
furious to understand.

'I beg your pardon,' repeated Fledgeby.

'Repeat your words louder, sir.  The just indignation of a
gentleman has sent the blood boiling to my head.  I don't hear
you.'

'I say,' repeated Fledgeby, with laborious explanatory politeness, 'I
beg your pardon.'

Mr Lammle paused.  'As a man of honour,' said he, throwing
himself into a chair, 'I am disarmed.'

Mr Fledgeby also took a chair, though less demonstratively, and
by slow approaches removed his hand from his nose.  Some
natural diffidence assailed him as to blowing it, so shortly after its
having assumed a personal and delicate, not to say public,
character; but he overcame his scruples by degrees, and modestly
took that liberty under an implied protest.

'Lammle,' he said sneakingly, when that was done, 'I hope we are
friends again?'

'Mr Fledgeby,' returned Lammle, 'say no more.'

'I must have gone too far in making myself disagreeable,' said
Fledgeby, 'but I never intended it.'

'Say no more, say no more!' Mr Lammle repeated in a magnificent
tone.  'Give me your'--Fledgeby started--'hand.'

They shook hands, and on Mr Lammle's part, in particular, there
ensued great geniality.  For, he was quite as much of a dastard as
the other, and had been in equal danger of falling into the second
place for good, when he took heart just in time, to act upon the
information conveyed to him by Fledgeby's eye.

The breakfast ended in a perfect understanding.  Incessant
machinations were to be kept at work by Mr and Mrs Lammle;
love was to be made for Fledgeby, and conquest was to be insured
to him; he on his part very humbly admitting his defects as to the
softer social arts, and entreating to be backed to the utmost by his
two able coadjutors.

Little recked Mr Podsnap of the traps and toils besetting his
Young Person.  He regarded her as safe within the Temple of
Podsnappery, hiding the fulness of time when she, Georgiana,
should take him, Fitz-Podsnap, who with all his worldly goods
should her endow.  It would call a blush into the cheek of his
standard Young Person to have anything to do with such matters
save to take as directed, and with worldly goods as per settlement
to be endowed.  Who giveth this woman to be married to this
man?  I, Podsnap.  Perish the daring thought that any smaller
creation should come between!

It was a public holiday, and Fledgeby did not recover his spirits or
his usual temperature of nose until the afternoon.  Walking into
the City in the holiday afternoon, he walked against a living
stream setting out of it; and thus, when he turned into the
precincts of St Mary Axe, he found a prevalent repose and quiet
there.  A yellow overhanging plaster-fronted house at which he
stopped was quiet too.  The blinds were all drawn down, and the
inscription Pubsey and Co. seemed to doze in the counting-house
window on the ground-floor giving on the sleepy street.

Fledgeby knocked and rang, and Fledgeby rang and knocked, but
no one came.  Fledgeby crossed the narrow street and looked up
at the house-windows, but nobody looked down at Fledgeby.  He
got out of temper, crossed the narrow street again, and pulled the
housebell as if it were the house's nose, and he were taking a hint
from his late experience.  His ear at the keyhole seemed then, at
last, to give him assurance that something stirred within.  His eye
at the keyhole seemed to confirm his ear, for he angrily pulled the
house's nose again, and pulled and pulled and continued to pull,
until a human nose appeared in the dark doorway.

'Now you sir!' cried Fledgeby.  'These are nice games!'

He addressed an old Jewish man in an ancient coat, long of skirt,
and wide of pocket.  A venerable man, bald and shining at the top
of his head, and with long grey hair flowing down at its sides and
mingling with his beard.  A man who with a graceful Eastern
action of homage bent his head, and stretched out his hands with
the palms downward, as if to deprecate the wrath of a superior.

'What have you been up to?' said Fledgeby, storming at him.

'Generous Christian master,' urged the Jewish man, 'it being
holiday, I looked for no one.'

'Holiday he blowed!' said Fledgeby, entering.  'What have YOU
got to do with holidays?  Shut the door.'

With his former action the old man obeyed.  In the entry hung his
rusty large-brimmed low-crowned hat, as long out of date as his
coat; in the corner near it stood his staff--no walking-stick but a
veritable staff.  Fledgeby turned into the counting-house, perched
himself on a business stool, and cocked his hat.  There were light
boxes on shelves in the counting-house, and strings of mock beads
hanging up.  There were samples of cheap clocks, and samples of
cheap vases of flowers.  Foreign toys, all.

Perched on the stool with his hat cocked on his head and one of
his legs dangling, the youth of Fledgeby hardly contrasted to
advantage with the age of the Jewish man as he stood with his
bare head bowed, and his eyes (which he only raised in speaking)
on the ground.  His clothing was worn down to the rusty hue of
the hat in the entry, but though he looked shabby he did not look
mean.  Now, Fledgeby, though not shabby, did look mean.

'You have not told me what you were up to, you sir,' said
Fledgeby, scratching his head with the brim of his hat.

'Sir, I was breathing the air.'

'In the cellar, that you didn't hear?'

'On the house-top.'

'Upon my soul!  That's a way of doing business.'

'Sir,' the old man represented with a grave and patient air, 'there
must be two parties to the transaction of business, and the holiday
has left me alone.'

'Ah!  Can't be buyer and seller too.  That's what the Jews say; ain't
it?'

'At least we say truly, if we say so,' answered the old man with a
smile.

'Your people need speak the truth sometimes, for they lie enough,'
remarked Fascination Fledgeby.

'Sir, there is,' returned the old man with quiet emphasis, 'too much
untruth among all denominations of men.'

Rather dashed, Fascination Fledgeby took another scratch at his
intellectual head with his hat, to gain time for rallying.

'For instance,' he resumed, as though it were he who had spoken
last, 'who but you and I ever heard of a poor Jew?'

'The Jews,' said the old man, raising his eyes from the ground with
his former smile.  'They hear of poor Jews often, and are very
good to them.'

'Bother that!' returned Fledgeby.  'You know what I mean.  You'd
persuade me if you could, that you are a poor Jew.  I wish you'd
confess how much you really did make out of my late governor.  I
should have a better opinion of you.'

The old man only bent his head, and stretched out his hands as
before.

'Don't go on posturing like a Deaf and Dumb School,' said the
ingenious Fledgeby, 'but express yourself like a Christian--or as
nearly as you can.'

'I had had sickness and misfortunes, and was so poor,' said the old
man, 'as hopelessly to owe the father, principal and interest.  The
son inheriting, was so merciful as to forgive me both, and place
me here.'

He made a little gesture as though he kissed the hem of an
imaginary garment worn by the noble youth before him.  It was
humbly done, but picturesquely, and was not abasing to the doer.

'You won't say more, I see,' said Fledgeby, looking at him as if he
would like to try the effect of extracting a double-tooth or two,
'and so it's of no use my putting it to you.  But confess this, Riah;
who believes you to be poor now?'

'No one,' said the old man.

'There you're right,' assented Fledgeby.

'No one,' repeated the old man with a grave slow wave of his
head.  'All scout it as a fable.  Were I to say "This little fancy
business is not mine";' with a lithe sweep of his easily-turning
hand around him, to comprehend the various objects on the
shelves; '"it is the little business of a Christian young gentleman
who places me, his servant, in trust and charge here, and to whom
I am accountable for every single bead," they would laugh.
When, in the larger money-business, I tell the borrowers--'

'I say, old chap!' interposed Fledgeby, 'I hope you mind what you
DO tell 'em?'

'Sir, I tell them no more than I am about to repeat.  When I tell
them, "I cannot promise this, I cannot answer for the other, I must
see my principal, I have not the money, I am a poor man and it
does not rest with me," they are so unbelieving and so impatient,
that they sometimes curse me in Jehovah's name.'

'That's deuced good, that is!' said Fascination Fledgeby.

'And at other times they say, "Can it never be done without these
tricks, Mr Riah?  Come, come, Mr Riah, we know the arts of your
people"--my people!--"If the money is to be lent, fetch it, fetch it;
if it is not to be lent, keep it and say so."  They never believe me.'

'THAT'S all right,' said Fascination Fledgeby.

'They say, "We know, Mr Riah, we know.  We have but to look at
you, and we know."'

'Oh, a good 'un are you for the post,' thought Fledgeby, 'and a
good 'un was I to mark you out for it!  I may be slow, but I am
precious sure.'

Not a syllable of this reflection shaped itself in any scrap of Mr
Fledgeby's breath, lest it should tend to put his servant's price up.
But looking at the old man as he stood quiet with his head bowed
and his eyes cast down, he felt that to relinquish an inch of his
baldness, an inch of his grey hair, an inch of his coat-skirt, an inch
of his hat-brim, an inch of his walking-staff, would be to relinquish
hundreds of pounds.

'Look here, Riah,' said Fledgeby, mollified by these self-approving
considerations.  'I want to go a little more into buying-up queer
bills.  Look out in that direction.'

'Sir, it shall be done.'

'Casting my eye over the accounts, I find that branch of business
pays pretty fairly, and I am game for extending it.  I like to know
people's affairs likewise.  So look out.'

'Sir, I will, promptly.'

'Put it about in the right quarters, that you'll buy queer bills by the
lump--by the pound weight if that's all--supposing you see your
way to a fair chance on looking over the parcel.  And there's one
thing more.  Come to me with the books for periodical inspection
as usual, at eight on Monday morning.'

Riah drew some folding tablets from his breast and noted it down.

'That's all I wanted to say at the present time,' continued Fledgeby
in a grudging vein, as he got off the stool, 'except that I wish you'd
take the air where you can hear the bell, or the knocker, either
one of the two or both.  By-the-by how DO you take the air at the
top of the house?  Do you stick your head out of a chimney-pot?'

'Sir, there are leads there, and I have made a little garden there.'

'To bury your money in, you old dodger?'

'A thumbnail's space of garden would hold the treasure I bury,
master,' said Riah.  'Twelve shillings a week, even when they are
an old man's wages, bury themselves.'

'I should like to know what you really are worth,' returned
Fledgeby, with whom his growing rich on that stipend and
gratitude was a very convenient fiction.  'But come!  Let's have a
look at your garden on the tiles, before I go!'

The old man took a step back, and hesitated.

'Truly, sir, I have company there.'

'Have you, by George!' said Fledgeby; 'I suppose you happen to
know whose premises these are?'

'Sir, they are yours, and I am your servant in them.'

'Oh! I thought you might have overlooked that,' retorted Fledgeby,
with his eyes on Riah's beard as he felt for his own; 'having
company on my premises, you know!'

'Come up and see the guests, sir.  I hope for your admission that
they can do no harm.'

Passing him with a courteous reverence, specially unlike any
action that Mr Fledgeby could for his life have imparted to his
own head and hands, the old man began to ascend the stairs.  As
he toiled on before, with his palm upon the stair-rail, and his long
black skirt, a very gaberdine, overhanging each successive step,
he might have been the leader in some pilgrimage of devotional
ascent to a prophet's tomb.  Not troubled by any such weak
imagining, Fascination Fledgeby merely speculated on the time of
life at which his beard had begun, and thought once more what a
good 'un he was for the part.

Some final wooden steps conducted them, stooping under a low
penthouse roof, to the house-top.  Riah stood still, and, turning to
his master, pointed out his guests.

Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren.  For whom, perhaps with some old
instinct of his race, the gentle Jew had spread a carpet.  Seated on
it, against no more romantic object than a blackened chimney-
stack over which some bumble creeper had been trained, they
both pored over one book; both with attentive faces; Jenny with
the sharper; Lizzie with the more perplexed.  Another little book
or two were lying near, and a common basket of common fruit,
and another basket full of strings of beads and tinsel scraps.  A
few boxes of humble flowers and evergreens completed the
garden; and the encompassing wilderness of dowager old
chimneys twirled their cowls and fluttered their smoke, rather as if
they were bridling, and fanning themselves, and looking on in a
state of airy surprise.

Taking her eyes off the book, to test her memory of something in
it, Lizzie was the first to see herself observed.  As she rose, Miss
Wren likewise became conscious, and said, irreverently
addressing the great chief of the premises: 'Whoever you are, I
can't get up, because my back's bad and my legs are queer.'

'This is my master,' said Riah, stepping forward.

('Don't look like anybody's master,' observed Miss Wren to
herself, with a hitch of her chin and eyes.)

'This, sir,' pursued the old man, 'is a little dressmaker for little
people.  Explain to the master, Jenny.'

'Dolls; that's all,' said Jenny, shortly.  'Very difficult to fit too,
because their figures are so uncertain.  You never know where to
expect their waists.'

'Her friend,' resumed the old man, motioning towards Lizzie; 'and
as industrious as virtuous.  But that they both are.  They are busy
early and late, sir, early and late; and in bye-times, as on this
holiday, they go to book-learning.'

'Not much good to be got out of that,' remarked Fledgeby.

'Depends upon the person!' quoth Miss Wren, snapping him up.

'I made acquaintance with my guests, sir,' pursued the Jew, with
an evident purpose of drawing out the dressmaker, 'through their
coming here to buy of our damage and waste for Miss Jenny's
millinery.  Our waste goes into the best of company, sir, on her
rosy-cheeked little customers.  They wear it in their hair, and on
their ball-dresses, and even (so she tells me) are presented at
Court with it.'

'Ah!' said Fledgeby, on whose intelligence this doll-fancy made
rather strong demands; 'she's been buying that basketful to-day, I
suppose?'

'I suppose she has,' Miss Jenny interposed; 'and paying for it too,
most likely!'

'Let's have a look at it,' said the suspicious chief.  Riah handed it
to him.  'How much for this now?'

'Two precious silver shillings,' said Miss Wren.

Riah confirmed her with two nods, as Fledgeby looked to him.  A
nod for each shilling.

'Well,' said Fledgeby, poking into the contents of the basket with
his forefinger, 'the price is not so bad.  You have got good
measure, Miss What-is-it.'

'Try Jenny,' suggested that young lady with great calmness.

'You have got good measure, Miss Jenny; but the price is not so
bad.--And you,' said Fledgeby, turning to the other visitor, 'do you
buy anything here, miss?'

'No, sir.'

'Nor sell anything neither, miss?'

'No, sir.'

Looking askew at the questioner, Jenny stole her hand up to her
friend's, and drew her friend down, so that she bent beside her on
her knee.

'We are thankful to come here for rest, sir,' said Jenny.  'You see,
you don't know what the rest of this place is to us; does he,
Lizzie?  It's the quiet, and the air.'

'The quiet!' repeated Fledgeby, with a contemptuous turn of his
head towards the City's roar.  'And the air!' with a 'Poof!' at the
smoke.

'Ah!' said Jenny.  'But it's so high.  And you see the clouds rushing
on above the narrow streets, not minding them, and you see the
golden arrows pointing at the mountains in the sky from which the
wind comes, and you feel as if you were dead.'

The little creature looked above her, holding up her slight
transparent hand.

'How do you feel when you are dead?' asked Fledgeby, much
perplexed.

'Oh, so tranquil!' cried the little creature, smiling.  'Oh, so peaceful
and so thankful!  And you hear the people who are alive, crying,
and working, and calling to one another down in the close dark
streets, and you seem to pity them so!  And such a chain has fallen
from you, and such a strange good sorrowful happiness comes
upon you!'

Her eyes fell on the old man, who, with his hands folded, quietly
looked on.

'Why it was only just now,' said the little creature, pointing at him,
'that I fancied I saw him come out of his grave!  He toiled out at
that low door so bent and worn, and then he took his breath and
stood upright, and looked all round him at the sky, and the wind
blew upon him, and his life down in the dark was over!--Till he
was called back to life,' she added, looking round at Fledgeby with
that lower look of sharpness.  'Why did you call him back?'

'He was long enough coming, anyhow,' grumbled Fledgeby.

'But you are not dead, you know,' said Jenny Wren.  'Get down to
life!'

Mr Fledgeby seemed to think it rather a good suggestion, and with
a nod turned round.  As Riah followed to attend him down the
stairs, the little creature called out to the Jew in a silvery tone,
'Don't be long gone.  Come back, and be dead!'  And still as they
went down they heard the little sweet voice, more and more
faintly, half calling and half singing, 'Come back and be dead,
Come back and be dead!'

When they got down into the entry, Fledgeby, pausing under the
shadow of the broad old hat, and mechanically poising the staff,
said to the old man:

'That's a handsome girl, that one in her senses.'

'And as good as handsome,' answered Riah.

'At all events,' observed Fledgeby, with a dry whistle, 'I hope she
ain't bad enough to put any chap up to the fastenings, and get the
premises broken open.  You look out.  Keep your weather eye
awake and don't make any more acquaintances, however
handsome.  Of course you always keep my name to yourself?'

'Sir, assuredly I do.'

'If they ask it, say it's Pubsey, or say it's Co, or say it's anything
you like, but what it is.'

His grateful servant--in whose race gratitude is deep, strong, and
enduring--bowed his head, and actually did now put the hem of
his coat to his lips: though so lightly that the wearer knew nothing
of it.

Thus, Fascination Fledgeby went his way, exulting in the artful
cleverness with which he had turned his thumb down on a Jew,
and the old man went his different way up-stairs.  As he mounted,
the call or song began to sound in his ears again, and, looking
above, he saw the face of the little creature looking down out of a
Glory of her long bright radiant hair, and musically repeating to
him, like a vision:

'Come up and be dead!  Come up and be dead!'



Chapter 6

A RIDDLE WITHOUT AN ANSWER


Again Mr Mortimer Lightwood and Mr Eugene Wrayburn sat
together in the Temple.  This evening, however, they were not
together in the place of business of the eminent solicitor, but in
another dismal set of chambers facing it on the same second-floor;
on whose dungeon-like black outer-door appeared the legend:

           PRIVATE

     MR EUGENE WRAYBURN

     MR MORTIMER LIGHTWOOD

    (Mr Lightwood's Offices opposite.)

Appearances indicated that this establishment was a very recent
institution.  The white letters of the inscription were extremely
white and extremely strong to the sense of smell, the complexion
of the tables and chairs was (like Lady Tippins's) a little too
blooming to be believed in, and the carpets and floorcloth seemed
to rush at the beholder's face in the unusual prominency of their
patterns.  But the Temple, accustomed to tone down both the still
life and the human life that has much to do with it, would soon get
the better of all that.

'Well!' said Eugene, on one side of the fire, 'I feel tolerably
comfortable.  I hope the upholsterer may do the same.'

'Why shouldn't he?' asked Lightwood, from the other side of the
fire.

'To be sure,' pursued Eugene, reflecting, 'he is not in the secret of
our pecuniary affairs, so perhaps he may be in an easy frame of
mind.'

'We shall pay him,' said Mortimer.

'Shall we, really?' returned Eugene, indolently surprised.  'You
don't say so!'

'I mean to pay him, Eugene, for my part,' said Mortimer, in a
slightly injured tone.

'Ah! I mean to pay him too,' retorted Eugene.  'But then I mean so
much that I--that I don't mean.'

'Don't mean?'

'So much that I only mean and shall always only mean and nothing
more, my dear Mortimer.  It's the same thing.'

His friend, lying back in his easy chair, watched him lying back in
his easy chair, as he stretched out his legs on the hearth-rug, and
said, with the amused look that Eugene Wrayburn could always
awaken in him without seeming to try or care:

'Anyhow, your vagaries have increased the bill.'

'Calls the domestic virtues vagaries!' exclaimed Eugene, raising his
eyes to the ceiling.

'This very complete little kitchen of ours,' said Mortimer, 'in which
nothing will ever be cooked--'

'My dear, dear Mortimer,' returned his friend, lazily lifting his head
a little to look at him, 'how often have I pointed out to you that its
moral influence is the important thing?'

'Its moral influence on this fellow!' exclaimed Lightwood,
laughing.

'Do me the favour,' said Eugene, getting out of his chair with much
gravity, 'to come and inspect that feature of our establishment
which you rashly disparage.'  With that, taking up a candle, he
conducted his chum into the fourth room of the set of chambers--a
little narrow room--which was very completely and neatly fitted
as a kitchen.  'See!' said Eugene, 'miniature flour-barrel, rolling-
pin, spice-box, shelf of brown jars, chopping-board, coffee-mill,
dresser elegantly furnished with crockery, saucepans and pans,
roasting jack, a charming kettle, an armoury of dish-covers.  The
moral influence of these objects, in forming the domestic virtues,
may have an immense influence upon me; not upon you, for you
are a hopeless case, but upon me.  In fact, I have an idea that I
feel the domestic virtues already forming.  Do me the favour to
step into my bedroom.  Secretaire, you see, and abstruse set of
solid mahogany pigeon-holes, one for every letter of the alphabet.
To what use do I devote them?  I receive a bill--say from Jones.  I
docket it neatly at the secretaire, JONES, and I put it into
pigeonhole J.  It's the next thing to a receipt and is quite as
satisfactory to ME.  And I very much wish, Mortimer,' sitting on
his bed, with the air of a philosopher lecturing a disciple, 'that my
example might induce YOU to cultivate habits of punctuality and
method; and, by means of the moral influences with which I have
surrounded you, to encourage the formation of the domestic
virtues.'

Mortimer laughed again, with his usual commentaries of  'How
CAN you be so ridiculous, Eugene!' and 'What an absurd fellow
you are!' but when his laugh was out, there was something serious,
if not anxious, in his face.  Despite that pernicious assumption of
lassitude and indifference, which had become his second nature,
he was strongly attached to his friend.  He had founded himself
upon Eugene when they were yet boys at school; and at this hour
imitated him no less, admired him no less, loved him no less, than
in those departed days.

'Eugene,' said he, 'if I could find you in earnest for a minute, I
would try to say an earnest word to you.'

'An earnest word?' repeated Eugene.  'The moral influences are
beginning to work.  Say on.'

'Well, I will,' returned the other, 'though you are not earnest yet.'

'In this desire for earnestness,' murmured Eugene, with the air of
one who was meditating deeply, 'I trace the happy influences of
the little flour-barrel and the coffee-mill.  Gratifying.'

'Eugene,' resumed Mortimer, disregarding the light interruption,
and laying a hand upon Eugene's shoulder, as he, Mortimer, stood
before him seated on his bed, 'you are withholding something from
me.'

Eugene looked at him, but said nothing.

'All this past summer, you have been withholding something from
me.  Before we entered on our boating vacation, you were as bent
upon it as I have seen you upon anything since we first rowed
together.  But you cared very little for it when it came, often
found it a tie and a drag upon you, and were constantly away.
Now it was well enough half-a-dozen times, a dozen times, twenty
times, to say to me in your own odd manner, which I know so well
and like so much, that your disappearances were precautions
against our boring one another; but of course after a short while I
began to know that they covered something.  I don't ask what it is,
as you have not told me; but the fact is so.  Say, is it not?'

'I give you my word of honour, Mortimer,' returned Eugene, after
a serious pause of a few moments, 'that I don't know.'

'Don't know, Eugene?'

'Upon my soul, don't know.  I know less about myself than about
most people in the world, and I don't know.'

'You have some design in your mind?'

'Have I?  I don't think I have.'

'At any rate, you have some subject of interest there which used
not to be there?'

'I really can't say,' replied Eugene, shaking his head blankly, after
pausing again to reconsider.  'At times I have thought yes; at other
times I have thought no.  Now, I have been inclined to pursue
such a subject; now I have felt that it was absurd, and that it tired
and embarrassed me.  Absolutely, I can't say.  Frankly and
faithfully, I would if I could.'

So replying, he clapped a hand, in his turn, on his friend's
shoulder, as he rose from his seat upon the bed, and said:

'You must take your friend as he is.  You know what I am, my
dear Mortimer.  You know how dreadfully susceptible I am to
boredom.  You know that when I became enough of a man to find
myself an embodied conundrum, I bored myself to the last degree
by trying to find out what I meant.  You know that at length I gave
it up, and declined to guess any more.  Then how can I possibly
give you the answer that I have not discovered?  The old nursery
form runs, "Riddle-me-riddle-me-ree, p'raps you can't tell me what
this may be?"  My reply runs, "No.  Upon my life, I can't."'

So much of what was fantastically true to his own knowledge of
this utterly careless Eugene, mingled with the answer, that
Mortimer could not receive it as a mere evasion.  Besides, it was
given with an engaging air of openness, and of special exemption
of the one friend he valued, from his reckless indifference.

'Come, dear boy!' said Eugene.  'Let us try the effect of smoking.
If it enlightens me at all on this question, I will impart
unreservedly.'

They returned to the room they had come from, and, finding it
heated, opened a window.  Having lighted their cigars, they leaned
out of this window, smoking, and looking down at the moonlight,
as it shone into the court below.

'No enlightenment,' resumed Eugene, after certain minutes of
silence.  'I feel sincerely apologetic, my dear Mortimer, but
nothing comes.'

'If nothing comes,' returned Mortimer, 'nothing can come from it.
So I shall hope that this may hold good throughout, and that there
may be nothing on foot.  Nothing injurious to you, Eugene, or--'

Eugene stayed him for a moment with his hand on his arm, while
he took a piece of earth from an old flowerpot on the window-sill
and dexterously shot it at a little point of light opposite; having
done which to his satisfaction, he said, 'Or?'

'Or injurious to any one else.'

'How,' said Eugene, taking another little piece of earth, and
shooting it with great precision at the former mark, 'how injurious
to any one else?'

'I don't know.'

'And,' said Eugene, taking, as he said the word, another shot, 'to
whom else?'

'I don't know.'

Checking himself with another piece of earth in his hand, Eugene
looked at his friend inquiringly and a little suspiciously.  There
was no concealed or half-expressed meaning in his face.

'Two belated wanderers in the mazes of the law,' said Eugene,
attracted by the sound of footsteps, and glancing down as he
spoke, 'stray into the court.  They examine the door-posts of
number one, seeking the name they want.  Not finding it at
number one, they come to number two.  On the hat of wanderer
number two, the shorter one, I drop this pellet.  Hitting him on the
hat, I smoke serenely, and become absorbed in contemplation of
the sky.'

Both the wanderers looked up towards the window; but, after
interchanging a mutter or two, soon applied themselves to the
door-posts below.  There they seemed to discover what they
wanted, for they disappeared from view by entering at the
doorway.  'When they emerge,' said Eugene, 'you shall see me
bring them both down'; and so prepared two pellets for the
purpose.

He had not reckoned on their seeking his name, or Lightwood's.
But either the one or the other would seem to be in question, for
now there came a knock at the door.  'I am on duty to-night,' said
Mortimer, 'stay you where you are, Eugene.'  Requiring no
persuasion, he stayed there, smoking quietly, and not at all curious
to know who knocked, until Mortimer spoke to him from within
the room, and touched him.  Then, drawing in his head, he found
the visitors to be young Charley Hexam and the schoolmaster;
both standing facing him, and both recognized at a glance.

'You recollect this young fellow, Eugene?' said Mortimer.

'Let me look at him,' returned Wrayburn, coolly.  'Oh, yes, yes.  I
recollect him!'

He had not been about to repeat that former action of taking him
by the chin, but the boy had suspected him of it, and had thrown
up his arm with an angry start.  Laughingly, Wrayburn looked to
Lightwood for an explanation of this odd visit.

'He says he has something to say.'

'Surely it must be to you, Mortimer.'

'So I thought, but he says no.  He says it is to you.'

'Yes, I do say so,' interposed the boy.  'And I mean to say what I
want to say, too, Mr Eugene Wrayburn!'

Passing him with his eyes as if there were nothing where he stood,
Eugene looked on to Bradley Headstone.  With consummate
indolence, he turned to Mortimer, inquiring: 'And who may this
other person be?'

'I am Charles Hexam's friend,' said Bradley; 'I am Charles
Hexam's schoolmaster.'

'My good sir, you should teach your pupils better manners,'
returned Eugene.

Composedly smoking, he leaned an elbow on the chimneypiece, at
the side of the fire, and looked at the schoolmaster.  It was a cruel
look, in its cold disdain of him, as a creature of no worth.  The
schoolmaster looked at him, and that, too, was a cruel look,
though of the different kind, that it had a raging jealousy and fiery
wrath in it.

Very remarkably, neither Eugene Wrayburn nor Bradley
Headstone looked at all at the boy.  Through the ensuing dialogue,
those two, no matter who spoke, or whom was addressed, looked
at each other.  There was some secret, sure perception between
them, which set them against one another in all ways.

'In some high respects, Mr Eugene Wrayburn,' said Bradley,
answering him with pale and quivering lips, 'the natural feelings of
my pupils are stronger than my teaching.'

'In most respects, I dare say,' replied Eugene, enjoying his cigar,
'though whether high or low is of no importance.  You have my
name very correctly.  Pray what is yours?'

'It cannot concern you much to know, but--'

'True,' interposed Eugene, striking sharply and cutting him short at
his mistake, 'it does not concern me at all to know.  I can say
Schoolmaster, which is a most respectable title.  You are right,
Schoolmaster.'

It was not the dullest part of this goad in its galling of Bradley
Headstone, that he had made it himself in a moment of incautious
anger.  He tried to set his lips so as to prevent their quivering, but
they quivered fast.

'Mr Eugene Wrayburn,' said the boy, 'I want a word with you.  I
have wanted it so much, that we have looked out your address in
the book, and we have been to your office, and we have come
from your office here.'

'You have given yourself much trouble, Schoolmaster,' observed
Eugene, blowing the feathery ash from his cigar.  'I hope it may
prove remunerative.'

'And I am glad to speak,' pursued the boy, 'in presence of Mr
Lightwood, because it was through Mr Lightwood that you ever
saw my sister.'

For a mere moment, Wrayburn turned his eyes aside from the
schoolmaster to note the effect of the last word on Mortimer, who,
standing on the opposite side of the fire, as soon as the word was
spoken, turned his face towards the fire and looked down into it.

'Similarly, it was through Mr Lightwood that you ever saw her
again, for you were with him on the night when my father was
found, and so I found you with her on the next day.  Since then,
you have seen my sister often.  You have seen my sister oftener
and oftener.  And I want to know why?'

'Was this worth while, Schoolmaster?' murmured Eugene, with the
air of a disinterested adviser.  'So much trouble for nothing?  You
should know best, but I think not.'

'I don't know, Mr Wrayburn,' answered Bradley, with his passion
rising, 'why you address me--'

'Don't you? said Eugene.  'Then I won't.'

He said it so tauntingly in his perfect placidity, that the
respectable right-hand clutching the respectable hair-guard of the
respectable watch could have wound it round his throat and
strangled him with it.  Not another word did Eugene deem it worth
while to utter, but stood leaning his head upon his hand, smoking,
and looking imperturbably at the chafing Bradley Headstone with
his clutching right-hand, until Bradley was wellnigh mad.

'Mr Wrayburn,' proceeded the boy, 'we not only know this that I
have charged upon you, but we know more.  It has not yet come
to my sister's knowledge that we have found it out, but we have.
We had a plan, Mr Headstone and I, for my sister's education, and
for its being advised and overlooked by Mr Headstone, who is a
much more competent authority, whatever you may pretend to
think, as you smoke, than you could produce, if you tried.  Then,
what do we find?  What do we find, Mr Lightwood?  Why, we
find that my sister is already being taught, without our knowing it.
We find that while my sister gives an unwilling and cold ear to our
schemes for her advantage--I, her brother, and Mr Headstone, the
most competent authority, as his certificates would easily prove,
that could be produced--she is wilfully and willingly profiting by
other schemes.  Ay, and taking pains, too, for I know what such
pains are.  And so does Mr Headstone!  Well!  Somebody pays for
this, is a thought that naturally occurs to us; who pays?  We apply
ourselves to find out, Mr Lightwood, and we find that your friend,
this Mr Eugene Wrayburn, here, pays.  Then I ask him what right
has he to do it, and what does he mean by it, and how comes he to
be taking such a liberty without my consent, when I am raising
myself in the scale of society by my own exertions and Mr
Headstone's aid, and have no right to have any darkness cast upon
my prospects, or any imputation upon my respectability, through
my sister?'

The boyish weakness of this speech, combined with its great
selfishness, made it a poor one indeed.  And yet Bradley
Headstone, used to the little audience of a school, and unused to
the larger ways of men, showed a kind of exultation in it.

'Now I tell Mr Eugene Wrayburn,' pursued the boy, forced into
the use of the third person by the hopelessness of addressing him
in the first, 'that I object to his having any acquaintance at all with
my sister, and that I request him to drop it altogether.  He is not to
take it into his head that I am afraid of my sister's caring for HIM--'

(As the boy sneered, the Master sneered, and Eugene blew off the
feathery ash again.)

--'But I object to it, and that's enough.  I am more important to
my sister than he thinks.  As I raise myself, I intend to raise her;
she knows that, and she has to look to me for her prospects.  Now
I understand all this very well, and so does Mr Headstone.  My
sister is an excellent girl, but she has some romantic notions; not
about such things as your Mr Eugene Wrayburns, but about the
death of my father and other matters of that sort.  Mr Wrayburn
encourages those notions to make himself of importance, and so
she thinks she ought to be grateful to him, and perhaps even likes
to be.  Now I don't choose her to be grateful to him, or to be
grateful to anybody but me, except Mr Headstone.  And I tell Mr
Wrayburn that if he don't take heed of what I say, it will be worse
for her.  Let him turn that over in his memory, and make sure of it.
Worse for her!'

A pause ensued, in which the schoolmaster looked very awkward.

'May I suggest, Schoolmaster,' said Eugene, removing his fast-
waning cigar from his lips to glance at it, 'that you can now take
your pupil away.'

'And Mr Lightwood,' added the boy, with a burning face, under
the flaming aggravation of getting no sort of answer or attention, 'I
hope you'll take notice of what I have said to your friend, and of
what your friend has heard me say, word by word, whatever he
pretends to the contrary.  You are bound to take notice of it, Mr
Lightwood, for, as I have already mentioned, you first brought
your friend into my sister's company, and but for you we never
should have seen him.  Lord knows none of us ever wanted him,
any more than any of us will ever miss him.  Now Mr Headstone,
as Mr Eugene Wrayburn has been obliged to hear what I had to
say, and couldn't help himself, and as I have said it out to the last
word, we have done all we wanted to do, and may go.'

'Go down-stairs, and leave me a moment, Hexam,' he returned.
The boy complying with an indignant look and as much noise as
he could make, swung out of the room; and Lightwood went to
the window, and leaned there, looking out.

'You think me of no more value than the dirt under your feet,' said
Bradley to Eugene, speaking in a carefully weighed and measured
tone, or he could not have spoken at all.

'I assure you, Schoolmaster,' replied Eugene, 'I don't think about
you.'

'That's not true,' returned the other; 'you know better.'

'That's coarse,' Eugene retorted; 'but you DON'T know better.'

'Mr Wrayburn, at least I know very well that it would be idle to
set myself against you in insolent words or overbearing manners.
That lad who has just gone out could put you to shame in half-a-
dozen branches of knowledge in half an hour, but you can throw
him aside like an inferior.  You can do as much by me, I have no
doubt, beforehand.'

'Possibly,' remarked Eugene.

'But I am more than a lad,' said Bradley, with his clutching hand,
'and I WILL be heard, sir.'

'As a schoolmaster,' said Eugene, 'you are always being heard.
That ought to content you.'

'But it does not content me,' replied the other, white with passion.
'Do you suppose that a man, in forming himself for the duties I
discharge, and in watching and repressing himself daily to
discharge them well, dismisses a man's nature?'

'I suppose you,' said Eugene, 'judging from what I see as I look at
you, to be rather too passionate for a good schoolmaster.'  As he
spoke, he tossed away the end of his cigar.

'Passionate with you, sir, I admit I am.  Passionate with you, sir, I
respect myself for being.  But I have not Devils for my pupils.'

'For your Teachers, I should rather say,' replied Eugene.

'Mr Wrayburn.'

'Schoolmaster.'

'Sir, my name is Bradley Headstone.'

'As you justly said, my good sir, your name cannot concern me.
Now, what more?'

'This more.  Oh, what a misfortune is mine,' cried Bradley,
breaking off to wipe the starting perspiration from his face as he
shook from head to foot, 'that I cannot so control myself as to
appear a stronger creature than this, when a man who has not felt
in all his life what I have felt in a day can so command himself!'
He said it in a very agony, and even followed it with an errant
motion of his hands as if he could have torn himself.

Eugene Wrayburn looked on at him, as if he found him beginning
to be rather an entertaining study.

'Mr Wrayburn, I desire to say something to you on my own part.'

'Come, come, Schoolmaster,' returned Eugene, with a languid
approach to impatience as the other again struggled with himself;
'say what you have to say.  And let me remind you that the door is
standing open, and your young friend waiting for you on the
stairs.'

'When I accompanied that youth here, sir, I did so with the
purpose of adding, as a man whom you should not be permitted to
put aside, in case you put him aside as a boy, that his instinct is
correct and right.'  Thus Bradley Headstone, with great effort and
difficulty.

'Is that all?' asked Eugene.

'No, sir,' said the other, flushed and fierce.  'I strongly support him
in his disapproval of your visits to his sister, and in his objection to
your officiousness--and worse--in what you have taken upon
yourself to do for her.'

'Is THAT all?' asked Eugene.

'No, sir.  I determined to tell you that you are not justified in these
proceedings, and that they are injurious to his sister.'

'Are you her schoolmaster as well as her brother's?--Or perhaps
you would like to be?' said Eugene.

It was a stab that the blood followed, in its rush to Bradley
Headstone's face, as swiftly as if it had been dealt with a dagger.
'What do you mean by that?' was as much as he could utter.

'A natural ambition enough,' said Eugene, coolly.  Far be it from
me to say otherwise.  The sister who is something too much upon
your lips, perhaps--is so very different from all the associations to
which she had been used, and from all the low obscure people
about her, that it is a very natural ambition.'

'Do you throw my obscurity in my teeth, Mr Wrayburn?'

'That can hardly be, for I know nothing concerning it,
Schoolmaster, and seek to know nothing.'

'You reproach me with my origin,' said Bradley Headstone; 'you
cast insinuations at my bringing-up.  But I tell you, sir, I have
worked my way onward, out of both and in spite of both, and
have a right to be considered a better man than you, with better
reasons for being proud.'

'How I can reproach you with what is not within my knowledge,
or how I can cast stones that were never in my hand, is a problem
for the ingenuity of a schoolmaster to prove,' returned Eugene.  'Is
THAT all?'

'No, sir.  If you suppose that boy--'

'Who really will be tired of waiting,' said Eugene, politely.

'If you suppose that boy to be friendless, Mr Wrayburn, you
deceive yourself.  I am his friend, and you shall find me so.'

'And you will find HIM on the stairs,' remarked Eugene.

'You may have promised yourself, sir, that you could do what you
chose here, because you had to deal with a mere boy,
inexperienced, friendless, and unassisted.  But I give you warning
that this mean calculation is wrong.  You have to do with a man
also.  You have to do with me.  I will support him, and, if need be,
require reparation for him.  My hand and heart are in this cause,
and are open to him.'

'And--quite a coincidence--the door is open,' remarked Eugene.

'I scorn your shifty evasions, and I scorn you,' said the
schoolmaster.  'In the meanness of your nature you revile me with
the meanness of my birth.  I hold you in contempt for it.  But if
you don't profit by this visit, and act accordingly, you will find me
as bitterly in earnest against you as I could be if I deemed you
worth a second thought on my own account.'

With a consciously bad grace and stiff manner, as Wrayburn
looked so easily and calmly on, he went out with these words, and
the heavy door closed like a furnace-door upon his red and white
heats of rage.

'A curious monomaniac,' said Eugene.  'The man seems to believe
that everybody was acquainted with his mother!'

Mortimer Lightwood being still at the window, to which he had in
delicacy withdrawn, Eugene called to him, and he fell to slowly
pacing the room.

'My dear fellow,' said Eugene, as he lighted another cigar, 'I fear
my unexpected visitors have been troublesome.  If as a set-off
(excuse the legal phrase from a barrister-at-law) you would like to
ask Tippins to tea, I pledge myself to make love to her.'

'Eugene, Eugene, Eugene,' replied Mortimer, still pacing the room,
'I am sorry for this.  And to think that I have been so blind!'

'How blind, dear boy?' inquired his unmoved friend.

'What were your words that night at the river-side public-house?'
said Lightwood, stopping.  'What was it that you asked me?  Did I
feel like a dark combination of traitor and pickpocket when I
thought of that girl?'

'I seem to remember the expression,' said Eugene.

'How do YOU feel when you think of her just now?'

His friend made no direct reply, but observed, after a few whiffs
of his cigar, 'Don't mistake the situation.  There is no better girl in
all this London than Lizzie Hexam.  There is no better among my
people at home; no better among your people.'

'Granted.  What follows?'

'There,' said Eugene, looking after him dubiously as he paced
away to the other end of the room, 'you put me again upon
guessing the riddle that I have given up.'

'Eugene, do you design to capture and desert this girl?'

'My dear fellow, no.'

'Do you design to marry her?'

'My dear fellow, no.'

'Do you design to pursue her?'

'My dear fellow, I don't design anything.  I have no design
whatever.  I am incapable of designs.  If I conceived a design, I
should speedily abandon it, exhausted by the operation.'

'Oh Eugene, Eugene!'

'My dear Mortimer, not that tone of melancholy reproach, I
entreat.  What can I do more than tell you all I know, and
acknowledge my ignorance of all I don't know!  How does that
little old song go, which, under pretence of being cheerful, is by
far the most lugubrious I ever heard in my life?

     "Away with melancholy,
      Nor doleful changes ring
      On life and human folly,
      But merrily merrily sing
                         Fal la!"

Don't let us sing Fal la, my dear Mortimer (which is comparatively
unmeaning), but let us sing that we give up guessing the riddle
altogether.'

'Are you in communication with this girl, Eugene, and is what
these people say true?'

'I concede both admissions to my honourable and learned friend.'

'Then what is to come of it?  What are you doing?  Where are you
going?'

'My dear Mortimer, one would think the schoolmaster had left
behind him a catechizing infection.  You are ruffled by the want
of another cigar.  Take one of these, I entreat.  Light it at mine,
which is in perfect order.  So!  Now do me the justice to observe
that I am doing all I can towards self-improvement, and that you
have a light thrown on those household implements which, when
you only saw them as in a glass darkly, you were hastily--I must
say hastily--inclined to depreciate.  Sensible of my deficiencies, I
have surrounded myself with moral influences expressly meant to
promote the formation of the domestic virtues.  To those
influences, and to the improving society of my friend from
boyhood, commend me with your best wishes.'

'Ah, Eugene!' said Lightwood, affectionately, now standing near
him, so that they both stood in one little cloud of smoke; 'I would
that you answered my three questions!  What is to come of it?
What are you doing?  Where are you going?'

'And my dear Mortimer,' returned Eugene, lightly fanning away
the smoke with his hand for the better exposition of his frankness
of face and manner, 'believe me, I would answer them instantly if
I could.  But to enable me to do so, I must first have found out the
troublesome conundrum long abandoned.  Here it is.  Eugene
Wrayburn.'  Tapping his forehead and breast.  'Riddle-me, riddle-
me-ree, perhaps you can't tell me what this may be?--No, upon my
life I can't.  I give it up!'



Chapter 7

IN WHICH A FRIENDLY MOVE IS ORIGINATED


The arrangement between Mr Boffin and his literary man, Mr
Silas Wegg, so far altered with the altered habits of Mr Boffin's
life, as that the Roman Empire usually declined in the morning
and in the eminently aristocratic family mansion, rather than in the
evening, as of yore, and in Boffin's Bower.  There were occasions,
however, when Mr Boffin, seeking a brief refuge from the
blandishments of fashion, would present himself at the Bower
after dark, to anticipate the next sallying forth of Wegg, and
would there, on the old settle, pursue the downward fortunes of
those enervated and corrupted masters of the world who were by
this time on their last legs.  If Wegg had been worse paid for his
office, or better qualified to discharge it, he would have
considered these visits complimentary and agreeable; but, holding
the position of a handsomely-remunerated humbug, he resented
them.  This was quite according to rule, for the incompetent
servant, by whomsoever employed, is always against his
employer.  Even those born governors, noble and right honourable
creatures, who have been the most imbecile in high places, have
uniformly shown themselves the most opposed (sometimes in
belying distrust, sometimes in vapid insolence) to THEIR
employer.  What is in such wise true of the public master and
servant, is equally true of the private master and servant all the
world over.

When Mr Silas Wegg did at last obtain free access to 'Our House',
as he had been wont to call the mansion outside which he had sat
shelterless so long, and when he did at last find it in all particulars
as different from his mental plans of it as according to the nature
of things it well could be, that far-seeing and far-reaching
character, by way of asserting himself and making out a case for
compensation, affected to fall into a melancholy strain of musing
over the mournful past; as if the house and he had had a fall in life
together.

'And this, sir,' Silas would say to his patron, sadly nodding his head
and musing, 'was once Our House!  This, sir, is the building from
which I have so often seen those great creatures, Miss Elizabeth,
Master George, Aunt Jane, and Uncle Parker'--whose very names
were of his own inventing--'pass and repass!  And has it come to
this, indeed!  Ah dear me, dear me!'

So tender were his lamentations, that the kindly Mr Boffin was
quite sorry for him, and almost felt mistrustful that in buying the
house he had done him an irreparable injury.

Two or three diplomatic interviews, the result of great subtlety on
Mr Wegg's part, but assuming the mask of careless yielding to a
fortuitous combination of circumstances impelling him towards
Clerkenwell, had enabled him to complete his bargain with Mr
Venus.

'Bring me round to the Bower,' said Silas, when the bargain was
closed, 'next Saturday evening, and if a sociable glass of old
Jamaikey warm should meet your views, I am not the man to
begrudge it.'

'You are aware of my being poor company, sir,' replied Mr Venus,
'but be it so.'

It being so, here is Saturday evening come, and here is Mr Venus
come, and ringing at the Bower-gate.

Mr Wegg opens the gate, descries a sort of brown paper truncheon
under Mr Venus's arm, and remarks, in a dry tone: 'Oh! I thought
perhaps you might have come in a cab.'

'No, Mr Wegg,' replies Venus.  'I am not above a parcel.'

'Above a parcel!  No!' says Wegg, with some dissatisfaction.  But
does not openly growl, 'a certain sort of parcel might be above
you.'

'Here is your purchase, Mr Wegg,' says Venus, politely handing it
over, 'and I am glad to restore it to the source from whence it--
flowed.'

'Thankee,' says Wegg.  'Now this affair is concluded, I may
mention to you in a friendly way that I've my doubts whether, if I
had consulted a lawyer, you could have kept this article back from
me.  I only throw it out as a legal point.'

'Do you think so, Mr Wegg?  I bought you in open contract.'

'You can't buy human flesh and blood in this country, sir; not
alive, you can't,' says Wegg, shaking his head.  'Then query, bone?'

'As a legal point?' asks Venus.

'As a legal point.'

'I am not competent to speak upon that, Mr Wegg,' says Venus,
reddening and growing something louder; 'but upon a point of fact
I think myself competent to speak; and as a point of fact I would
have seen you--will you allow me to say, further?'

'I wouldn't say more than further, if I was you,' Mr Wegg suggests,
pacifically.

--'Before I'd have given that packet into your hand without being
paid my price for it.  I don't pretend to know how the point of law
may stand, but I'm thoroughly confident upon the point of fact.'

As Mr Venus is irritable (no doubt owing to his disappointment in
love), and as it is not the cue of Mr Wegg to have him out of
temper, the latter gentleman soothingly remarks, 'I only put it as a
little case; I only put it ha'porthetically.'

'Then I'd rather, Mr Wegg, you put it another time, penn'orth-
etically,' is Mr Venus's retort, 'for I tell you candidly I don't like
your little cases.'

Arrived by this time in Mr Wegg's sitting-room, made bright on
the chilly evening by gaslight and fire, Mr Venus softens and
compliments him on his abode; profiting by the occasion to
remind Wegg that he (Venus) told him he had got into a good
thing.

'Tolerable,' Wegg rejoins.  'But bear in mind, Mr Venus, that
there's no gold without its alloy.  Mix for yourself and take a seat
in the chimbley-corner.  Will you perform upon a pipe, sir?'

'I am but an indifferent performer, sir,' returns the other; 'but I'll
accompany you with a whiff or two at intervals.'

So, Mr Venus mixes, and Wegg mixes; and Mr Venus lights and
puffs, and Wegg lights and puffs.

'And there's alloy even in this metal of yours, Mr Wegg, you was
remarking?'

'Mystery,' returns Wegg.  'I don't like it, Mr Venus.  I don't like to
have the life knocked out of former inhabitants of this house, in
the gloomy dark, and not know who did it.'

'Might you have any suspicions, Mr Wegg?'

'No,' returns that gentleman.  'I know who profits by it.  But I've
no suspicions.'

Having said which, Mr Wegg smokes and looks at the fire with a
most determined expression of Charity; as if he had caught that
cardinal virtue by the skirts as she felt it her painful duty to depart
from him, and held her by main force.

'Similarly,' resumes Wegg, 'I have observations as I can offer upon
certain points and parties; but I make no objections, Mr Venus.
Here is an immense fortune drops from the clouds upon a person
that shall be nameless.  Here is a weekly allowance, with a certain
weight of coals, drops from the clouds upon me.  Which of us is
the better man?  Not the person that shall be nameless.  That's an
observation of mine, but I don't make it an objection.  I take my
allowance and my certain weight of coals.  He takes his fortune.
That's the way it works.'

'It would be a good thing for me, if I could see things in the calm
light you do, Mr Wegg.'

'Again look here,' pursues Silas, with an oratorical flourish of his
pipe and his wooden leg: the latter having an undignified tendency
to tilt him back in his chair; 'here's another observation, Mr Venus,
unaccompanied with an objection.  Him that shall be nameless is
liable to be talked over.  He gets talked over.  Him that shall be
nameless, having me at his right hand, naturally looking to be
promoted higher, and you may perhaps say meriting to be
promoted higher--'

(Mr Venus murmurs that he does say so.)

'--Him that shall be nameless, under such circumstances passes me
by, and puts a talking-over stranger above my head.  Which of us
two is the better man?  Which of us two can repeat most poetry?
Which of us two has, in the service of him that shall be nameless,
tackled the Romans, both civil and military, till he has got as
husky as if he'd been weaned and ever since brought up on
sawdust?  Not the talking-over stranger.  Yet the house is as free
to him as if it was his, and he has his room, and is put upon a
footing, and draws about a thousand a year.  I am banished to the
Bower, to be found in it like a piece of furniture whenever
wanted.  Merit, therefore, don't win.  That's the way it works.  I
observe it, because I can't help observing it, being accustomed to
take a powerful sight of notice; but I don't object.  Ever here
before, Mr Venus?'

'Not inside the gate, Mr Wegg.'

'You've been as far as the gate then, Mr Venus?'

'Yes, Mr Wegg, and peeped in from curiosity.'

'Did you see anything?'

'Nothing but the dust-yard.'

Mr Wegg rolls his eyes all round the room, in that ever unsatisfied
quest of his, and then rolls his eyes all round Mr Venus; as if
suspicious of his having something about him to be found out.

'And yet, sir,' he pursues, 'being acquainted with old Mr Harmon,
one would have thought it might have been polite in you, too, to
give him a call.  And you're naturally of a polite disposition, you
are.'  This last clause as a softening compliment to Mr Venus.

'It is true, sir,' replies Venus, winking his weak eyes, and running
his fingers through his dusty shock of hair, 'that I was so, before a
certain observation soured me.  You understand to what I allude,
Mr Wegg?  To a certain written statement respecting not wishing
to be regarded in a certain light.  Since that, all is fled, save gall.'

'Not all,' says Mr Wegg, in a tone of sentimental condolence.

'Yes, sir,' returns Venus, 'all!  The world may deem it harsh, but I'd
quite as soon pitch into my best friend as not.  Indeed, I'd sooner!'

Involuntarily making a pass with his wooden leg to guard himself
as Mr Venus springs up in the emphasis of this unsociable
declaration, Mr Wegg tilts over on his back, chair and all, and is
rescued by that harmless misanthrope, in a disjointed state and
ruefully rubbing his head.

'Why, you lost your balance, Mr Wegg,' says Venus, handing him
his pipe.

'And about time to do it,' grumbles Silas, 'when a man's visitors,
without a word of notice, conduct themselves with the sudden
wiciousness of Jacks-in-boxes!  Don't come flying out of your
chair like that, Mr Venus!'

'I ask your pardon, Mr Wegg.  I am so soured.'

'Yes, but hang it,' says Wegg argumentatively, 'a well-governed
mind can be soured sitting!  And as to being regarded in lights,
there's bumpey lights as well as bony.  IN which,' again rubbing
his head, 'I object to regard myself.'

'I'll bear it in memory, sir.'

'If you'll be so good.' Mr Wegg slowly subdues his ironical tone
and his lingering irritation, and resumes his pipe.  'We were talking
of old Mr Harmon being a friend of yours.'

'Not a friend, Mr Wegg.  Only known to speak to, and to have a
little deal with now and then.  A very inquisitive character, Mr
Wegg, regarding what was found in the dust.  As inquisitive as
secret.'

'Ah!  You found him secret?' returns Wegg, with a greedy relish.

'He had always the look of it, and the manner of it.'

'Ah!' with another roll of his eyes.  'As to what was found in the
dust now.  Did you ever hear him mention how he found it, my
dear friend?  Living on the mysterious premises, one would like to
know.  For instance, where he found things?  Or, for instance, how
he set about it?  Whether he began at the top of the mounds, or
whether he began at the bottom.  Whether he prodded'; Mr
Wegg's pantomime is skilful and expressive here; 'or whether he
scooped?  Should you say scooped, my dear Mr Venus; or should
you as a man--say prodded?'

'I should say neither, Mr Wegg.'

'As a fellow-man, Mr Venus--mix again--why neither?'

'Because I suppose, sir, that what was found, was found in the
sorting and sifting.  All the mounds are sorted and sifted?'

'You shall see 'em and pass your opinion.  Mix again.'

On each occasion of his saying 'mix again', Mr Wegg, with a hop
on his wooden leg, hitches his chair a little nearer; more as if he
were proposing that himself and Mr Venus should mix again, than
that they should replenish their glasses.

'Living (as I said before) on the mysterious premises,' says Wegg
when the other has acted on his hospitable entreaty, 'one likes to
know.  Would you be inclined to say now--as a brother--that he
ever hid things in the dust, as well as found 'em?'

'Mr Wegg, on the whole I should say he might.'

Mr Wegg claps on his spectacles, and admiringly surveys Mr
Venus from head to foot.

'As a mortal equally with myself, whose hand I take in mine for
the first time this day, having unaccountably overlooked that act
so full of boundless confidence binding a fellow-creetur TO a
fellow creetur,' says Wegg, holding Mr Venus's palm out, flat and
ready for smiting, and now smiting it; 'as such--and no other--for I
scorn all lowlier ties betwixt myself and the man walking with his
face erect that alone I call my Twin--regarded and regarding in
this trustful bond--what do you think he might have hid?'

'It is but a supposition, Mr Wegg.'

'As a Being with his hand upon his heart,' cries Wegg; and the
apostrophe is not the less impressive for the Being's hand being
actually upon his rum and water; 'put your supposition into
language, and bring it out, Mr Venus!'

'He was the species of old gentleman, sir,' slowly returns that
practical anatomist, after drinking, 'that I should judge likely to
take such opportunities as this place offered, of stowing away
money, valuables, maybe papers.'

'As one that was ever an ornament to human life,' says Mr Wegg,
again holding out Mr Venus's palm as if he were going to tell his
fortune by chiromancy, and holding his own up ready for smiting
it when the time should come; 'as one that the poet might have
had his eye on, in writing the national naval words:

     Helm a-weather, now lay her close,
       Yard arm and yard arm she lies;
     Again, cried I, Mr Venus, give her t'other dose,
       Man shrouds and grapple, sir, or she flies!

--that is to say, regarded in the light of true British Oak, for such
you are explain, Mr Venus, the expression "papers"!'

'Seeing that the old gentleman was generally cutting off some near
relation, or blocking out some natural affection,' Mr Venus rejoins,
'he most likely made a good many wills and codicils.'

The palm of Silas Wegg descends with a sounding smack upon the
palm of Venus, and Wegg lavishly exclaims, 'Twin in opinion
equally with feeling!  Mix a little more!'

Having now hitched his wooden leg and his chair close in front of
Mr Venus, Mr Wegg rapidly mixes for both, gives his visitor his
glass, touches its rim with the rim of his own, puts his own to his
lips, puts it down, and spreading his hands on his visitor's knees
thus addresses him:

'Mr Venus.  It ain't that I object to being passed over for a
stranger, though I regard the stranger as a more than doubtful
customer.  It ain't for the sake of making money, though money is
ever welcome.  It ain't for myself, though I am not so haughty as
to be above doing myself a good turn.  It's for the cause of the
right.'

Mr Venus, passively winking his weak eyes both at once,
demands: 'What is, Mr Wegg?'

'The friendly move, sir, that I now propose.  You see the move,
sir?'

'Till you have pointed it out, Mr Wegg, I can't say whether I do or
not.'

'If there IS anything to be found on these premises, let us find it
together.  Let us make the friendly move of agreeing to look for it
together.  Let us make the friendly move of agreeing to share the
profits of it equally betwixt us.  In the cause of the right.'  Thus
Silas assuming a noble air.

'Then,' says Mr Venus, looking up, after meditating with his hair
held in his hands, as if he could only fix his attention by fixing his
head; 'if anything was to be unburied from under the dust, it would
be kept a secret by you and me?  Would that be it, Mr Wegg?'

'That would depend upon what it was, Mr Venus.  Say it was
money, or plate, or jewellery, it would be as much ours as
anybody else's.'

Mr Venus rubs an eyebrow, interrogatively.

'In the cause of the right it would.  Because it would be
unknowingly sold with the mounds else, and the buyer would get
what he was never meant to have, and never bought.  And what
would that be, Mr Venus, but the cause of the wrong?'

'Say it was papers,' Mr Venus propounds.

'According to what they contained we should offer to dispose of
'em to the parties most interested,' replies Wegg, promptly.

'In the cause of the right, Mr Wegg?'

'Always so, Mr Venus.  If the parties should use them in the cause
of the wrong, that would be their act and deed.  Mr Venus.  I have
an opinion of you, sir, to which it is not easy to give mouth.  Since
I called upon you that evening when you were, as I may say,
floating your powerful mind in tea, I have felt that you required to
be roused with an object.  In this friendly move, sir, you will have
a glorious object to rouse you.'

Mr Wegg then goes on to enlarge upon what throughout has been
uppermost in his crafty mind:--the qualifications of Mr Venus for
such a search.  He expatiates on Mr Venus's patient habits and
delicate manipulation; on his skill in piecing little things together;
on his knowledge of various tissues and textures; on the likelihood
of small indications leading him on to the discovery of great
concealments.  'While as to myself,' says Wegg, 'I am not good at
it.  Whether I gave myself up to prodding, or whether I gave
myself up to scooping, I couldn't do it with that delicate touch so
as not to show that I was disturbing the mounds.  Quite different
with YOU, going to work (as YOU would) in the light of a fellow-
man, holily pledged in a friendly move to his brother man.'  Mr
Wegg next modestly remarks on the want of adaptation in a
wooden leg to ladders and such like airy perches, and also hints at
an inherent tendency in that timber fiction, when called into
action for the purposes of a promenade on an ashey slope, to stick
itself into the yielding foothold, and peg its owner to one spot.
Then, leaving this part of the subject, he remarks on the special
phenomenon that before his installation in the Bower, it was from
Mr Venus that he first heard of the legend of hidden wealth in the
Mounds: 'which', he observes with a vaguely pious air, 'was surely
never meant for nothing.'  Lastly, he returns to the cause of the
right, gloomily foreshadowing the possibility of something being
unearthed to criminate Mr Boffin (of whom he once more
candidly admits it cannot be denied that he profits by a murder),
and anticipating his denunciation by the friendly movers to
avenging justice.  And this, Mr Wegg expressly points out, not at
all for the sake of the reward--though it would be a want of
principle not to take it.

To all this, Mr Venus, with his shock of dusty hair cocked after
the manner of a terrier's ears, attends profoundly.  When Mr
Wegg, having finished, opens his arms wide, as if to show Mr
Venus how bare his breast is, and then folds them pending a reply,
Mr Venus winks at him with both eyes some little time before
speaking.

'I see you have tried it by yourself, Mr Wegg,' he says when he
does speak.  'You have found out the difficulties by experience.'

'No, it can hardly be said that I have tried it,' replies Wegg, a little
dashed by the hint.  'I have just skimmed it.  Skimmed it.'

'And found nothing besides the difficulties?'

Wegg shakes his head.

'I scarcely know what to say to this, Mr Wegg,' observes Venus,
after ruminating for a while.

'Say yes,' Wegg naturally urges.

'If I wasn't soured, my answer would be no.  But being soured, Mr
Wegg, and driven to reckless madness and desperation, I suppose
it's Yes.'

Wegg joyfully reproduces the two glasses, repeats the ceremony
of clinking their rims, and inwardly drinks with great heartiness to
the health and success in life of the young lady who has reduced
Mr Venus to his present convenient state of mind.

The articles of the friendly move are then severally recited and
agreed upon.  They are but secrecy, fidelity, and perseverance.
The Bower to be always free of access to Mr Venus for his
researches, and every precaution to be taken against their
attracting observation in the neighbourhood.

'There's a footstep!' exclaims Venus.

'Where?' cries Wegg, starting.

'Outside.  St!'

They are in the act of ratifying the treaty of friendly move, by
shaking hands upon it.  They softly break off, light their pipes
which have gone out, and lean back in their chairs.  No doubt, a
footstep.  It approaches the window, and a hand taps at the glass.
'Come in!' calls Wegg; meaning come round by the door.  But the
heavy old-fashioned sash is slowly raised, and a head slowly looks
in out of the dark background of night.

'Pray is Mr Silas Wegg here?  Oh! I see him!'

The friendly movers might not have been quite at their ease, even
though the visitor had entered in the usual manner.  But, leaning
on the breast-high window, and staring in out of the darkness, they
find the visitor extremely embarrassing.  Especially Mr Venus:
who removes his pipe, draws back his head, and stares at the
starer, as if it were his own Hindoo baby come to fetch him home.

'Good evening, Mr Wegg.  The yard gate-lock should be looked
to, if you please; it don't catch.'

'Is it Mr Rokesmith?' falters Wegg.

'It is Mr Rokesmith.  Don't let me disturb you.  I am not coming in.
I have only a message for you, which I undertook to deliver on my
way home to my lodgings.  I was in two minds about coming
beyond the gate without ringing: not knowing but you might have
a dog about.'

'I wish I had,' mutters Wegg, with his back turned as he rose from
his chair.  St!  Hush!   The talking-over stranger, Mr Venus.'

'Is that any one I know?' inquires the staring Secretary.

'No, Mr Rokesmith.  Friend of mine.  Passing the evening with
me.'

'Oh! I beg his pardon.  Mr Boffin wishes you to know that he does
not expect you to stay at home any evening, on the chance of his
coming.  It has occurred to him that he may, without intending it,
have been a tie upon you.  In future, if he should come without
notice, he will take his chance of finding you, and it will be all the
same to him if he does not.  I undertook to tell you on my way.
That's all.'

With that, and 'Good night,' the Secretary lowers the window, and
disappears.  They listen, and hear his footsteps go back to the
gate, and hear the gate close after him.

'And for that individual, Mr Venus,' remarks Wegg, when he is
fully gone, 'I have been passed over!  Let me ask you what you
think of him?'

Apparently, Mr Venus does not know what to think of him, for he
makes sundry efforts to reply, without delivering himself of any
other articulate utterance than that he has 'a singular look'.

'A double look, you mean, sir,' rejoins Wegg, playing bitterly upon
the word.  'That's HIS look.  Any amount of singular look for me,
but not a double look!  That's an under-handed mind, sir.'

'Do you say there's something against him?' Venus asks.

'Something against him?' repeats Wegg.  'Something?  What would
the relief be to my feelings--as a fellow-man--if I wasn't the slave
of truth, and didn't feel myself compelled to answer, Everything!'

See into what wonderful maudlin refuges, featherless ostriches
plunge their heads!  It is such unspeakable moral compensation to
Wegg, to be overcome by the consideration that Mr Rokesmith
has an underhanded mind!

'On this starlight night, Mr Venus,' he remarks, when he is showing
that friendly mover out across the yard, and both are something
the worse for mixing again and again: 'on this starlight night to
think that talking-over strangers, and underhanded minds, can go
walking home under the sky, as if they was all square!'

'The spectacle of those orbs,' says Mr Venus, gazing upward with
his hat tumbling off; 'brings heavy on me her crushing words that
she did not wish to regard herself nor yet to be regarded in that--'

'I know!  I know!  You needn't repeat 'em,' says Wegg, pressing
his hand.  'But think how those stars steady me in the cause of the
right against some that shall be nameless.  It isn't that I bear
malice.  But see how they glisten with old remembrances!  Old
remembrances of what, sir?'

Mr Venus begins drearily replying, 'Of her words, in her own
handwriting, that she does not wish to regard herself, nor yet--'
when Silas cuts him short with dignity.

'No, sir!  Remembrances of Our House, of Master George, of Aunt
Jane, of Uncle Parker, all laid waste!  All offered up sacrifices to
the minion of fortune and the worm of the hour!'



Chapter 8

IN WHICH AN INNOCENT ELOPEMENT OCCURS


The minion of fortune and the worm of the hour, or in less cutting
language, Nicodemus Boffin, Esquire, the Golden Dustman, had
become as much at home in his eminently aristocratic family
mansion as he was likely ever to be.  He could not but feel that,
like an eminently aristocratic family cheese, it was much too large
for his wants, and bred an infinite amount of parasites; but he was
content to regard this drawback on his property as a sort of
perpetual Legacy Duty.  He felt the more resigned to it, forasmuch
as Mrs Boffin enjoyed herself completely, and Miss Bella was
delighted.

That young lady was, no doubt, and acquisition to the Boffins.
She was far too pretty to be unattractive anywhere, and far too
quick of perception to be below the tone of her new career.
Whether it improved her heart might be a matter of taste that was
open to question; but as touching another matter of taste, its
improvement of her appearance and manner, there could be no
question whatever.

And thus it soon came about that Miss Bella began to set Mrs
Boffin right; and even further, that Miss Bella began to feel ill at
ease, and as it were responsible, when she saw Mrs Boffin going
wrong.  Not that so sweet a disposition and so sound a nature
could ever go very wrong even among the great visiting authorities
who agreed that the Boffins were 'charmingly vulgar' (which for
certain was not their own case in saying so), but that when she
made a slip on the social ice on which all the children of
Podsnappery, with genteel souls to be saved, are required to skate
in circles, or to slide in long rows, she inevitably tripped Miss
Bella up (so that young lady felt), and caused her to experience
great confusion under the glances of the more skilful performers
engaged in those ice-exercises.

At Miss Bella's time of life it was not to be expected that she
should examine herself very closely on the congruity or stability
of her position in Mr Boffin's house.  And as she had never been
sparing of complaints of her old home when she had no other to
compare it with, so there was no novelty of ingratitude or disdain
in her very much preferring her new one.

'An invaluable man is Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin, after some two
or three months.  'But I can't quite make him out.'

Neither could Bella, so she found the subject rather interesting.

'He takes more care of my affairs, morning, noon, and night,' said
Mr Boffin, 'than fifty other men put together either could or
would; and yet he has ways of his own that are like tying a
scaffolding-pole right across the road, and bringing me up short
when I am almost a-walking arm in arm with him.'

'May I ask how so, sir?' inquired Bella.

'Well, my dear,' said Mr Boffin, 'he won't meet any company here,
but you.  When we have visitors, I should wish him to have his
regular place at the table like ourselves; but no, he won't take it.'

'If he considers himself above it,' said Miss Bella, with an airy toss
of her head, 'I should leave him alone.'

'It ain't that, my dear,' replied Mr Boffin, thinking it over.  'He
don't consider himself above it.'

'Perhaps he considers himself beneath it,' suggested Bella.  'If so,
he ought to know best.'

'No, my dear; nor it ain't that, neither.  No,' repeated Mr Boffin,
with a shake of his head, after again thinking it over; 'Rokesmith's
a modest man, but he don't consider himself beneath it.'

'Then what does he consider, sir?' asked Bella.

'Dashed if I know!' said Mr Boffin.  'It seemed that first as if it was
only Lightwood that he objected to meet.  And now it seems to be
everybody, except you.'

Oho! thought Miss Bella.  'In--deed!  That's it, is it!'  For Mr
Mortimer Lightwood had dined there two or three times, and she
had met him elsewhere, and he had shown her some attention.
'Rather cool in a Secretary--and Pa's lodger--to make me the
subject of his jealousy!'

That Pa's daughter should be so contemptuous of Pa's lodger was
odd; but there were odder anomalies than that in the mind of the
spoilt girl: spoilt first by poverty, and then by wealth.  Be it this
history's part, however, to leave them to unravel themselves.

'A little too much, I think,' Miss Bella reflected scornfully, 'to have
Pa's lodger laying claim to me, and keeping eligible people off!  A
little too much, indeed, to have the opportunities opened to me by
Mr and Mrs Boffin, appropriated by a mere Secretary and Pa's
lodger!'

Yet it was not so very long ago that Bella had been fluttered by
the discovery that this same Secretary and lodger seem to like her.
Ah! but the eminently aristocratic mansion and Mrs Boffin's
dressmaker had not come into play then.

In spite of his seemingly retiring manners a very intrusive person,
this Secretary and lodger, in Miss Bella's opinion.  Always a light
in his office-room when we came home from the play or Opera,
and he always at the carriage-door to hand us out.  Always a
provoking radiance too on Mrs Boffin's face, and an abominably
cheerful reception of him, as if it were possible seriously to
approve what the man had in his mind!

'You never charge me, Miss Wilfer,' said the Secretary,
encountering her by chance alone in the great drawing-room, 'with
commissions for home.  I shall always be happy to execute any
commands you may have in that direction.'

'Pray what may you mean, Mr Rokesmith?' inquired Miss Bella,
with languidly drooping eyelids.

'By home?  I mean your father's house at Holloway.'

She coloured under the retort--so skilfully thrust, that the words
seemed to be merely a plain answer, given in plain good faith--and
said, rather more emphatically and sharply:

'What commissions and commands are you speaking of?'

'Only little words of remembrance as I assume you sent somehow
or other,' replied the Secretary with his former air.  'It would be a
pleasure to me if you would make me the bearer of them.  As you
know, I come and go between the two houses every day.'

'You needn't remind me of that, sir.'

She was too quick in this petulant sally against 'Pa's lodger'; and
she felt that she had been so when she met his quiet look.

'They don't send many--what was your expression?--words of
remembrance to me,' said Bella, making haste to take refuge in ill-
usage.

'They frequently ask me about you, and I give them such slight
intelligence as I can.'

'I hope it's truly given,' exclaimed Bella.

'I hope you cannot doubt it, for it would be very much against
you, if you could.'

'No, I do not doubt it.  I deserve the reproach, which is very just
indeed.  I beg your pardon, Mr Rokesmith.'

'I should beg you not to do so, but that it shows you to such
admirable advantage,' he replied with earnestness.  'Forgive me; I
could not help saying that.  To return to what I have digressed
from, let me add that perhaps they think I report them to you,
deliver little messages, and the like.  But I forbear to trouble you,
as you never ask me.'

'I am going, sir,' said Bella, looking at him as if he had reproved
her, 'to see them tomorrow.'

'Is that,' he asked, hesitating, 'said to me, or to them?'

'To which you please.'

'To both?  Shall I make it a message?'

'You can if you like, Mr Rokesmith.  Message or no message, I am
going to see them tomorrow.'

'Then I will tell them so.'

He lingered a moment, as though to give her the opportunity of
prolonging the conversation if she wished.  As she remained silent,
he left her.  Two incidents of the little interview were felt by Miss
Bella herself, when alone again, to be very curious.  The first was,
that he unquestionably left her with a penitent air upon her, and a
penitent feeling in her heart.  The second was, that she had not an
intention or a thought of going home, until she had announced it to
him as a settled design.

'What can I mean by it, or what can he mean by it?' was her
mental inquiry: 'He has no right to any power over me, and how
do I come to mind him when I don't care for him?'

Mrs Boffin, insisting that Bella should make tomorrow's
expedition in the chariot, she went home in great grandeur.  Mrs
Wilfer and Miss Lavinia had speculated much on the probabilities
and improbabilities of her coming in this gorgeous state, and, on
beholding the chariot from the window at which they were
secreted to look out for it, agreed that it must be detained at the
door as long as possible, for the mortification and confusion of the
neighbours.  Then they repaired to the usual family room, to
receive Miss Bella with a becoming show of indifference.

The family room looked very small and very mean, and the
downward staircase by which it was attained looked very narrow
and very crooked.  The little house and all its arrangements were a
poor contrast to the eminently aristocratic dwelling.  'I can hardly
believe, thought Bella, that I ever did endure life in this place!'

Gloomy majesty on the part of Mrs Wilfer, and native pertness on
the part of Lavvy, did not mend the matter.  Bella really stood in
natural need of a little help, and she got none.

'This,' said Mrs Wilfer, presenting a cheek to be kissed, as
sympathetic and responsive as the back of the bowl of a spoon, 'is
quite an honour!  You will probably find your sister Lavvy grown,
Bella.'

'Ma,' Miss Lavinia interposed, 'there can be no objection to your
being aggravating, because Bella richly deserves it; but I really
must request that you will not drag in such ridiculous nonsense as
my having grown when I am past the growing age.'

'I grew, myself,' Mrs Wilfer sternly proclaimed, 'after I was
married.'

'Very well, Ma,' returned Lavvy, 'then I think you had much better
have left it alone.'

The lofty glare with which the majestic woman received this
answer, might have embarrassed a less pert opponent, but it had
no effect upon Lavinia: who, leaving her parent to the enjoyment
of any amount of glaring at she might deem desirable under the
circumstances, accosted her sister, undismayed.

'I suppose you won't consider yourself quite disgraced, Bella, if I
give you a kiss?  Well!  And how do you do, Bella?  And how are
your Boffins?'

'Peace!' exclaimed Mrs Wilfer.  'Hold! I will not suffer this tone of
levity.'

'My goodness me!  How are your Spoffins, then?' said Lavvy,
'since Ma so very much objects to your Boffins.'

'Impertinent girl!  Minx!' said Mrs Wilfer, with dread severity.

'I don't care whether I am a Minx, or a Sphinx,' returned Lavinia,
coolly, tossing her head; 'it's exactly the same thing to me, and I'd
every bit as soon be one as the other; but I know this--I'll not grow
after I'm married!'

'You will not?  YOU will not?' repeated Mrs Wilfer, solemnly.

'No, Ma, I will not.  Nothing shall induce me.'

Mrs Wilfer, having waved her gloves, became loftily pathetic.

'But it was to be expected;' thus she spake.  'A child of mine
deserts me for the proud and prosperous, and another child of
mine despises me.  It is quite fitting.'

'Ma,' Bella struck in, 'Mr and Mrs Boffin are prosperous, no
doubt; but you have no right to say they are proud.  You must
know very well that they are not.'

'In short, Ma,' said Lavvy, bouncing over to the enemy without a
word of notice, you must know very well--or if you don't, more
shame for you!--that Mr and Mrs Boffin are just absolute
perfection.'

'Truly,' returned Mrs Wilfer, courteously receiving the deserter, it
would seem that we are required to think so.  And this, Lavinia, is
my reason for objecting to a tone of levity.  Mrs Boffin (of whose
physiognomy I can never speak with the composure I would
desire to preserve), and your mother, are not on terms of intimacy.
It is not for a moment to be supposed that she and her husband
dare to presume to speak of this family as the Wilfers.  I cannot
therefore condescend to speak of them as the Boffins.  No; for
such a tone--call it familiarity, levity, equality, or what you will--
would imply those social interchanges which do not exist.  Do I
render myself intelligible?'

Without taking the least notice of this inquiry, albeit delivered in
an imposing and forensic manner, Lavinia reminded her sister,
'After all, you know, Bella, you haven't told us how your
Whatshisnames are.'

'I don't want to speak of them here,' replied Bella, suppressing
indignation, and tapping her foot on the floor.  'They are much too
kind and too good to be drawn into these discussions.'

'Why put it so?' demanded Mrs Wilfer, with biting sarcasm.  'Why
adopt a circuitous form of speech?  It is polite and it is obliging;
but why do it?  Why not openly say that they are much too kind
and too good for US?  We understand the allusion.  Why disguise
the phrase?'

'Ma,' said Bella, with one beat of her foot, 'you are enough to
drive a saint mad, and so is Lavvy.'

'Unfortunate Lavvy!' cried Mrs Wilfer, in a tone of commiseration.
'She always comes for it.  My poor child!'  But Lavvy, with the
suddenness of her former desertion, now bounced over to the other
enemy: very sharply remarking, 'Don't patronize ME, Ma, because
I can take care of myself.'

'I only wonder,' resumed Mrs Wilfer, directing her observations to
her elder daughter, as safer on the whole than her utterly
unmanageable younger, 'that you found time and inclination to
tear yourself from Mr and Mrs Boffin, and come to see us at all.  I
only wonder that our claims, contending against the superior
claims of Mr and Mrs Boffin, had any weight.  I feel I ought to be
thankful for gaining so much, in competition with Mr and Mrs
Boffin.'  (The good lady bitterly emphasized the first letter of the
word Boffin, as if it represented her chief objection to the owners
of that name, and as if she could have born Doffin, Moffin, or
Poffin much better.)

'Ma,' said Bella, angrily, 'you force me to say that I am truly sorry
I did come home, and that I never will come home again, except
when poor dear Pa is here.  For, Pa is too magnanimous to feel
envy and spite towards my generous friends, and Pa is delicate
enough and gentle enough to remember the sort of little claim they
thought I had upon them and the unusually trying position in
which, through no act of my own, I had been placed.  And I
always did love poor dear Pa better than all the rest of you put
together, and I always do and I always shall!'

Here Bella, deriving no comfort from her charming bonnet and her
elegant dress, burst into tears.

'I think, R.W.,' cried Mrs Wilfer, lifting up her eyes and
apostrophising the air, 'that if you were present, it would be a trial
to your feelings to hear your wife and the mother of your family
depreciated in your name.  But Fate has spared you this, R.W.,
whatever it may have thought proper to inflict upon her!'

Here Mrs Wilfer burst into tears.

'I hate the Boffins!' protested Miss Lavinia.  I don't care who
objects to their being called the Boffins.  I WILL call 'em the
Boffins.  The Boffins, the Boffins, the Boffins!  And I say they are
mischief-making Boffins, and I say the Boffins have set Bella
against me, and I tell the Boffins to their faces:' which was not
strictly the fact, but the young lady was excited: 'that they are
detestable Boffins, disreputable Boffins, odious Boffins, beastly
Boffins.  There!'

Here Miss Lavinia burst into tears.

The front garden-gate clanked, and the Secretary was seen coming
at a brisk pace up the steps.  'Leave Me to open the door to him,'
said Mrs Wilfer, rising with stately resignation as she shook her
head and dried her eyes; 'we have at present no stipendiary girl to
do so.  We have nothing to conceal.  If he sees these traces of
emotion on our cheeks, let him construe them as he may.'

With those words she stalked out.  In a few moments she stalked
in again, proclaiming in her heraldic manner, 'Mr Rokesmith is the
bearer of a packet for Miss Bella Wilfer.'

Mr Rokesmith followed close upon his name, and of course saw
what was amiss.  But he discreetly affected to see nothing, and
addressed Miss Bella.

'Mr Boffin intended to have placed this in the carriage for you this
morning.  He wished you to have it, as a little keepsake he had
prepared--it is only a purse, Miss Wilfer--but as he was
disappointed in his fancy, I volunteered to come after you with it.'

Bella took it in her hand, and thanked him.

'We have been quarrelling here a little, Mr Rokesmith, but not
more than we used; you know our agreeable ways among
ourselves.  You find me just going.  Good-bye, mamma.  Good-
bye, Lavvy!' and with a kiss for each Miss Bella turned to the
door.  The Secretary would have attended her, but Mrs Wilfer
advancing and saying with dignity, 'Pardon me!  Permit me to
assert my natural right to escort my child to the equipage which is
in waiting for her,' he begged pardon and gave place.  It was a
very magnificent spectacle indeed, too see Mrs Wilfer throw open
the house-door, and loudly demand with extended gloves, 'The
male domestic of Mrs Boffin!'  To whom presenting himself, she
delivered the brief but majestic charge, 'Miss Wilfer.  Coming out!'
and so delivered her over, like a female Lieutenant of the Tower
relinquishing a State Prisoner.  The effect of this ceremonial was
for some quarter of an hour afterwards perfectly paralyzing on the
neighbours, and was much enhanced by the worthy lady airing
herself for that term in a kind of splendidly serene trance on the
top step.

When Bella was seated in the carriage, she opened the little
packet in her hand.  It contained a pretty purse, and the purse
contained a bank note for fifty pounds.  'This shall be a joyful
surprise for poor dear Pa,' said Bella, 'and I'll take it myself into
the City!'

As she was uninformed respecting the exact locality of the place
of business of Chicksey Veneering and Stobbles, but knew it to be
near Mincing Lane, she directed herself to be driven to the corner
of that darksome spot.  Thence she despatched 'the male domestic
of Mrs Boffin,' in search of the counting-house of Chicksey
Veneering and Stobbles, with a message importing that if R.
Wilfer could come out, there was a lady waiting who would be
glad to speak with him.  The delivery of these mysterious words
from the mouth of a footman caused so great an excitement in the
counting-house, that a youthful scout was instantly appointed to
follow Rumty, observe the lady, and come in with his report.  Nor
was the agitation by any means diminished, when the scout rushed
back with the intelligence that the lady was 'a slap-up gal in a
bang-up chariot.'

Rumty himself, with his pen behind his ear under his rusty hat,
arrived at the carriage-door in a breathless condition, and had
been fairly lugged into the vehicle by his cravat and embraced
almost unto choking, before he recognized his daughter.  'My dear
child!' he then panted, incoherently.  'Good gracious me!  What a
lovely woman you are!  I thought you had been unkind and
forgotten your mother and sister.'

'I have just been to see them, Pa dear.'

'Oh! and how--how did you find your mother?' asked R. W.,
dubiously.

'Very disagreeable, Pa, and so was Lavvy.'

'They are sometimes a little liable to it,' observed the patient
cherub; 'but I hope you made allowances, Bella, my dear?'

'No.  I was disagreeable too, Pa; we were all of us disagreeable
together.  But I want you to come and dine with me somewhere,
Pa.'

'Why, my dear, I have already partaken of a--if one might mention
such an article in this superb chariot--of a--Saveloy,' replied R.
Wilfer, modestly dropping his voice on the word, as he eyed the
canary-coloured fittings.

'Oh! That's nothing, Pa!'

'Truly, it ain't as much as one could sometimes wish it to be, my
dear,' he admitted, drawing his hand across his mouth.  'Still, when
circumstances over which you have no control, interpose
obstacles between yourself and Small Germans, you can't do
better than bring a contented mind to hear on'--again dropping his
voice in deference to the chariot--'Saveloys!'

'You poor good Pa!  Pa, do, I beg and pray, get leave for the rest
of the day, and come and pass it with me!'

'Well, my dear, I'll cut back and ask for leave.'

'But before you cut back,' said Bella, who had already taken him
by the chin, pulled his hat off, and begun to stick up his hair in her
old way, 'do say that you are sure I am giddy and inconsiderate,
but have never really slighted you, Pa.'

'My dear, I say it with all my heart.  And might I likewise observe,'
her father delicately hinted, with a glance out at window, 'that
perhaps it might be calculated to attract attention, having one's
hair publicly done by a lovely woman in an elegant turn-out in
Fenchurch Street?'

Bella laughed and put on his hat again.  But when his boyish
figure bobbed away, its shabbiness and cheerful patience smote
the tears out of her eyes.  'I hate that Secretary for thinking it of
me,' she said to herself, 'and yet it seems half true!'

Back came her father, more like a boy than ever, in his release
from school.  'All right, my dear.  Leave given at once.  Really
very handsomely done!'

'Now where can we find some quiet place, Pa, in which I can wait
for you while you go on an errand for me, if I send the carriage
away?'

It demanded cogitation.  'You see, my dear,' he explained, 'you
really have become such a very lovely woman, that it ought to be
a very quiet place.'  At length he suggested, 'Near the garden up
by the Trinity House on Tower Hill.'  So, they were driven there,
and Bella dismissed the chariot; sending a pencilled note by it to
Mrs Boffin, that she was with her father.

'Now, Pa, attend to what I am going to say, and promise and vow
to be obedient.'

'I promise and vow, my dear.'

'You ask no questions.  You take this purse; you go to the nearest
place where they keep everything of the very very best, ready
made; you buy and put on, the most beautiful suit of clothes, the
most beautiful hat, and the most beautiful pair of bright boots
(patent leather, Pa, mind!) that are to be got for money; and you
come back to me.'

'But, my dear Bella--'

'Take care, Pa!' pointing her forefinger at him, merrily.  'You have
promised and vowed.  It's perjury, you know.'

There was water in the foolish little fellow's eyes, but she kissed
them dry (though her own were wet), and he bobbed away again.
After half an hour, he came back, so brilliantly transformed, that
Bella was obliged to walk round him in ecstatic admiration twenty
times, before she could draw her arm through his, and delightedly
squeeze it.

'Now, Pa,' said Bella, hugging him close, 'take this lovely woman
out to dinner.'

'Where shall we go, my dear?'

'Greenwich!' said Bella, valiantly.  'And be sure you treat this
lovely woman with everything of the best.'

While they were going along to take boat, 'Don't you wish, my
dear,' said R. W., timidly, 'that your mother was here?'

'No, I don't, Pa, for I like to have you all to myself to-day.  I was
always your little favourite at home, and you were always mine.
We have run away together often, before now; haven't we, Pa?'

'Ah, to be sure we have!  Many a Sunday when your mother was--
was a little liable to it,' repeating his former delicate expression
after pausing to cough.

'Yes, and I am afraid I was seldom or never as good as I ought to
have been, Pa.  I made you carry me, over and over again, when
you should have made me walk; and I often drove you in harness,
when you would much rather have sat down and read your news-
paper: didn't I?'

'Sometimes, sometimes.  But Lor, what a child you were!  What a
companion you were!'

'Companion?  That's just what I want to be to-day, Pa.'

'You are safe to succeed, my love.  Your brothers and sisters have
all in their turns been companions to me, to a certain extent, but
only to a certain extent.  Your mother has, throughout life, been a
companion that any man might--might look up to--and--and
commit the sayings of, to memory--and--form himself upon--if he--'

'If he liked the model?' suggested Bella.

'We-ell, ye-es,' he returned, thinking about it, not quite satisfied
with the phrase: 'or perhaps I might say, if it was in him.
Supposing, for instance, that a man wanted to be always marching,
he would find your mother an inestimable companion.  But if he
had any taste for walking, or should wish at any time to break into
a trot, he might sometimes find it a little difficult to keep step with
your mother.  Or take it this way, Bella,' he added, after a
moment's reflection; 'Supposing that a man had to go through life,
we won't say with a companion, but we'll say to a tune.  Very
good.  Supposing that the tune allotted to him was the Dead
March in Saul.  Well. It would be a very suitable tune for
particular occasions--none better--but it would be difficult to keep
time with in the ordinary run of domestic transactions.  For
instance, if he took his supper after a hard day, to the Dead March
in Saul, his food might be likely to sit heavy on him.  Or, if he was
at any time inclined to relieve his mind by singing a comic song or
dancing a hornpipe, and was obliged to do it to the Dead March in
Saul, he might find himself put out in the execution of his lively
intentions.'

'Poor Pa!' thought Bella, as she hung upon his arm.

'Now, what I will say for you, my dear,' the cherub pursued mildly
and without a notion of complaining, 'is, that you are so adaptable.
So adaptable.'

'Indeed I am afraid I have shown a wretched temper, Pa.  I am
afraid I have been very complaining, and very capricious.  I
seldom or never thought of it before.  But when I sat in the
carriage just now and saw you coming along the pavement, I
reproached myself.'

'Not at all, my dear.  Don't speak of such a thing.'

A happy and a chatty man was Pa in his new clothes that day.
Take it for all in all, it was perhaps the happiest day he had ever
known in his life; not even excepting that on which his heroic
partner had approached the nuptial altar to the tune of the Dead
March in Saul.

The little expedition down the river was delightful, and the little
room overlooking the river into which they were shown for dinner
was delightful.  Everything was delightful.  The park was
delightful, the punch was delightful, the dishes of fish were
delightful, the wine was delightful.  Bella was more delightful than
any other item in the festival; drawing Pa out in the gayest
manner; making a point of always mentioning herself as the lovely
woman; stimulating Pa to order things, by declaring that the lovely
woman insisted on being treated with them; and in short causing
Pa to be quite enraptured with the consideration that he WAS the
Pa of such a charming daughter.

And then, as they sat looking at the ships and steamboats making
their way to the sea with the tide that was running down, the
lovely woman imagined all sorts of voyages for herself and Pa.
Now, Pa, in the character of owner of a lumbering square-sailed
collier, was tacking away to Newcastle, to fetch black diamonds
to make his fortune with; now, Pa was going to China in that
handsome threemasted ship, to bring home opium, with which he
would for ever cut out Chicksey Veneering and Stobbles, and to
bring home silks and shawls without end for the decoration of his
charming daughter.  Now, John Harmon's disastrous fate was all a
dream, and he had come home and found the lovely woman just
the article for him, and the lovely woman had found him just the
article for her, and they were going away on a trip, in their gallant
bark, to look after their vines, with streamers flying at all points, a
band playing on deck and Pa established in the great cabin.  Now,
John Harmon was consigned to his grave again, and a merchant of
immense wealth (name unknown) had courted and married the
lovely woman, and he was so enormously rich that everything you
saw upon the river sailing or steaming belonged to him, and he
kept a perfect fleet of yachts for pleasure, and that little impudent
yacht which you saw over there, with the great white sail, was
called The Bella, in honour of his wife, and she held her state
aboard when it pleased her, like a modern Cleopatra.  Anon, there
would embark in that troop-ship when she got to Gravesend, a
mighty general, of large property (name also unknown), who
wouldn't hear of going to victory without his wife, and whose wife
was the lovely woman, and she was destined to become the idol of
all the red coats and blue jackets alow and aloft.  And then again:
you saw that ship being towed out by a steam-tug?  Well! where
did you suppose she was going to?  She was going among the coral
reefs and cocoa-nuts and all that sort of thing, and she was
chartered for a fortunate individual of the name of Pa (himself on
board, and much respected by all hands), and she was going, for
his sole profit and advantage, to fetch a cargo of sweet-smelling
woods, the most beautiful that ever were seen, and the most
profitable that ever were heard of; and her cargo would be a great
fortune, as indeed it ought to be: the lovely woman who had
purchased her and fitted her expressly for this voyage, being
married to an Indian Prince, who was a Something-or-Other, and
who wore Cashmere shawls all over himself and diamonds and
emeralds blazing in his turban, and was beautifully coffee-
coloured and excessively devoted, though a little too jealous.
Thus Bella ran on merrily, in a manner perfectly enchanting to Pa,
who was as willing to put his head into the Sultan's tub of water as
the beggar-boys below the window were to put THEIR heads in
the mud.

'I suppose, my dear,' said Pa after dinner, 'we may come to the
conclusion at home, that we have lost you for good?'

Bella shook her head.  Didn't know.  Couldn't say.  All she was
able to report was, that she was most handsomely supplied with
everything she could possibly want, and that whenever she hinted
at leaving Mr and Mrs Boffin, they wouldn't hear of it.

'And now, Pa,' pursued Bella, 'I'll make a confession to you.  I am
the most mercenary little wretch that ever lived in the world.'

'I should hardly have thought it of you, my dear,' returned her
father, first glancing at himself; and then at the dessert.

'I understand what you mean, Pa, but it's not that.  It's not that I
care for money to keep as money, but I do care so much for what
it will buy!'

'Really I think most of us do,' returned R. W.

'But not to the dreadful extent that I do, Pa.  O-o!' cried Bella,
screwing the exclamation out of herself with a twist of her
dimpled chin.  'I AM so mercenary!'

With a wistful glance R. W. said, in default of having anything
better to say: 'About when did you begin to feel it coming on, my
dear?'

'That's it, Pa.  That's the terrible part of it.  When I was at home,
and only knew what it was to be poor, I grumbled but didn't so
much mind.  When I was at home expecting to be rich, I thought
vaguely of all the great things I would do.  But when I had been
disappointed of my splendid fortune, and came to see it from day
to day in other hands, and to have before my eyes what it could
really do, then I became the mercenary little wretch I am.'

'It's your fancy, my dear.'

'I can assure you it's nothing of the sort, Pa!' said Bella, nodding at
him, with her very pretty eyebrows raised as high as they would
go, and looking comically frightened.  'It's a fact.  I am always
avariciously scheming.'

'Lor!  But how?'

'I'll tell you, Pa.  I don't mind telling YOU, because we have
always been favourites of each other's, and because you are not
like a Pa, but more like a sort of a younger brother with a dear
venerable chubbiness on him.  And besides,' added Bella, laughing
as she pointed a rallying finger at his face, 'because I have got you
in my power.  This is a secret expedition.  If ever you tell of me,
I'll tell of you.  I'll tell Ma that you dined at Greenwich.'

'Well; seriously, my dear,' observed R. W., with some trepidation
of manner, 'it might be as well not to mention it.'

'Aha!' laughed Bella.  'I knew you wouldn't like it, sir!  So you
keep my confidence, and I'll keep yours.  But betray the lovely
woman, and you shall find her a serpent.  Now, you may give me
a kiss, Pa, and I should like to give your hair a turn, because it has
been dreadfully neglected in my absence.'

R. W. submitted his head to the operator, and the operator went
on talking; at the same time putting separate locks of his hair
through a curious process of being smartly rolled over her two
revolving forefingers, which were then suddenly pulled out of it in
opposite lateral directions.  On each of these occasions the patient
winced and winked.

'I have made up my mind that I must have money, Pa.  I feel that I
can't beg it, borrow it, or steal it; and so I have resolved that I
must marry it.'

R. W. cast up his eyes towards her, as well as he could under the
operating circumstances, and said in a tone of remonstrance, 'My
de-ar Bella!'

'Have resolved, I say, Pa, that to get money I must marry money.
In consequence of which, I am always looking out for money to
captivate.'

'My de-a-r Bella!'

'Yes, Pa, that is the state of the case.  If ever there was a
mercenary plotter whose thoughts and designs were always in her
mean occupation, I am the amiable creature.  But I don't care.  I
hate and detest being poor, and I won't be poor if I can marry
money.  Now you are deliciously fluffy, Pa, and in a state to
astonish the waiter and pay the bill.'

'But, my dear Bella, this is quite alarming at your age.'

'I told you so, Pa, but you wouldn't believe it,' returned Bella, with
a pleasant childish gravity.  'Isn't it shocking?'

'It would be quite so, if you fully knew what you said, my dear, or
meant it.'

'Well, Pa, I can only tell you that I mean nothing else.  Talk to me
of love!' said Bella, contemptuously: though her face and figure
certainly rendered the subject no incongruous one.  'Talk to me of
fiery dragons!  But talk to me of poverty and wealth, and there
indeed we touch upon realities.'

'My De-ar, this is becoming Awful--' her father was emphatically
beginning: when she stopped him.

'Pa, tell me.  Did you marry money?'

'You know I didn't, my dear.'

Bella hummed the Dead March in Saul, and said, after all it
signified very little!  But seeing him look grave and downcast, she
took him round the neck and kissed him back to cheerfulness
again.

'I didn't mean that last touch, Pa; it was only said in joke.  Now
mind!  You are not to tell of me, and I'll not tell of you.  And more
than that; I promise to have no secrets from you, Pa, and you may
make certain that, whatever mercenary things go on, I shall
always tell you all about them in strict confidence.'

Fain to be satisfied with this concession from the lovely woman,
R. W. rang the bell, and paid the bill.  'Now, all the rest of this,
Pa,' said Bella, rolling up the purse when they were alone again,
hammering it small with her little fist on the table, and cramming it
into one of the pockets of his new waistcoat, 'is for you, to buy
presents with for them at home, and to pay bills with, and to
divide as you like, and spend exactly as you think proper.  Last of
all take notice, Pa, that it's not the fruit of any avaricious scheme.
Perhaps if it was, your little mercenary wretch of a daughter
wouldn't make so free with it!'

After which, she tugged at his coat with both hands, and pulled
him all askew in buttoning that garment over the precious
waistcoat pocket, and then tied her dimples into her bonnet-strings
in a very knowing way, and took him back to London.  Arrived at
Mr Boffin's door, she set him with his back against it, tenderly
took him by the ears as convenient handles for her purpose, and
kissed him until he knocked muffled double knocks at the door
with the back of his head.  That done, she once more reminded
him of their compact and gaily parted from him.

Not so gaily, however, but that tears filled her eyes as he went
away down the dark street.  Not so gaily, but that she several
times said, 'Ah, poor little Pa!  Ah, poor dear struggling shabby
little Pa!' before she took heart to knock at the door.  Not so gaily,
but that the brilliant furniture seemed to stare her out of
countenance as if it insisted on being compared with the dingy
furniture at home.  Not so gaily, but that she fell into very low
spirits sitting late in her own room, and very heartily wept, as she
wished, now that the deceased old John Harmon had never made
a will about her, now that the deceased young John Harmon had
lived to marry her.  'Contradictory things to wish,' said Bella, 'but
my life and fortunes are so contradictory altogether that what can
I expect myself to be!'



Chapter 9

IN WHICH THE ORPHAN MAKES HIS WILL


The Secretary, working in the Dismal Swamp betimes next
morning, was informed that a youth waited in the hall who gave
the name of Sloppy.  The footman who communicated this
intelligence made a decent pause before uttering the name, to
express that it was forced on his reluctance by the youth in
question, and that if the youth had had the good sense and good
taste to inherit some other name it would have spared the feelings
of him the bearer.

'Mrs Boffin will be very well pleased,' said the Secretary in a
perfectly composed way.  'Show him in.'

Mr Sloppy being introduced, remained close to the door: revealing
in various parts of his form many surprising, confounding, and
incomprehensible buttons.

'I am glad to see you,' said John Rokesmith, in a cheerful tone of
welcome.  'I have been expecting you.'

Sloppy explained that he had meant to come before, but that the
Orphan (of whom he made mention as Our Johnny) had been
ailing, and he had waited to report him well.

'Then he is well now?' said the Secretary.

'No he ain't,' said Sloppy.

Mr Sloppy having shaken his head to a considerable extent,
proceeded to remark that he thought Johnny 'must have took 'em
from the Minders.'  Being asked what he meant, he answered,
them that come out upon him and partickler his chest.  Being
requested to explain himself, he stated that there was some of 'em
wot you couldn't kiver with a sixpence.  Pressed to fall back upon
a nominative case, he opined that they wos about as red as ever
red could be.  'But as long as they strikes out'ards, sir,' continued
Sloppy, 'they ain't so much.  It's their striking in'ards that's to be
kep off.'

John Rokesmith hoped the child had had medical attendance?  Oh
yes, said Sloppy, he had been took to the doctor's shop once.  And
what did the doctor call it? Rokesmith asked him.  After some
perplexed reflection, Sloppy answered, brightening, 'He called it
something as wos wery long for spots.'  Rokesmith suggested
measles.  'No,' said Sloppy with confidence, 'ever so much longer
than THEM, sir!'  (Mr Sloppy was elevated by this fact, and
seemed to consider that it reflected credit on the poor little
patient.)

'Mrs Boffin will be sorry to hear this,' said Rokesmith.

'Mrs Higden said so, sir, when she kep it from her, hoping as Our
Johnny would work round.'

'But I hope he will?' said Rokesmith, with a quick turn upon the
messenger.

'I hope so,' answered Sloppy.  'It all depends on their striking
in'ards.'  He then went on to say that whether Johnny had 'took
'em' from the Minders, or whether the Minders had 'took em from
Johnny, the Minders had been sent home and had 'got em.
Furthermore, that Mrs Higden's days and nights being devoted to
Our Johnny, who was never out of her lap, the whole of the
mangling arrangements had devolved upon himself, and he had
had 'rayther a tight time'.  The ungainly piece of honesty beamed
and blushed as he said it, quite enraptured with the remembrance
of having been serviceable.

'Last night,' said Sloppy, 'when I was a-turning at the wheel pretty
late, the mangle seemed to go like Our Johnny's breathing.  It
begun beautiful, then as it went out it shook a little and got
unsteady, then as it took the turn to come home it had a rattle-like
and lumbered a bit, then it come smooth, and so it went on till I
scarce know'd which was mangle and which was Our Johnny.  Nor
Our Johnny, he scarce know'd either, for sometimes when the
mangle lumbers he says, "Me choking, Granny!" and Mrs Higden
holds him up in her lap and says to me "Bide a bit, Sloppy," and
we all stops together.  And when Our Johnny gets his breathing
again, I turns again, and we all goes on together.'

Sloppy had gradually expanded with his description into a stare
and a vacant grin.  He now contracted, being silent, into a half-
repressed gush of tears, and, under pretence of being heated, drew
the under part of his sleeve across his eyes with a singularly
awkward, laborious, and roundabout smear.

'This is unfortunate,' said Rokesmith.  'I must go and break it to
Mrs Boffin.  Stay you here, Sloppy.'

Sloppy stayed there, staring at the pattern of the paper on the wall,
until the Secretary and Mrs Boffin came back together.  And with
Mrs Boffin was a young lady (Miss Bella Wilfer by name) who
was better worth staring at, it occurred to Sloppy, than the best of
wall-papering.

'Ah, my poor dear pretty little John Harmon!' exclaimed Mrs
Boffin.

'Yes mum,' said the sympathetic Sloppy.

'You don't think he is in a very, very bad way, do you?' asked the
pleasant creature with her wholesome cordiality.

Put upon his good faith, and finding it in collision with his
inclinations, Sloppy threw back his head and uttered a mellifluous
howl, rounded off with a sniff.

'So bad as that!' cried Mrs Boffin.  'And Betty Higden not to tell
me of it sooner!'

'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' answered Sloppy,
hesitating.

'Of what, for Heaven's sake?'

'I think she might have been mistrustful, mum,' returned Sloppy
with submission, 'of standing in Our Johnny's light.  There's so
much trouble in illness, and so much expense, and she's seen such
a lot of its being objected to.'

'But she never can have thought,' said Mrs Boffin, 'that I would
grudge the dear child anything?'

'No mum, but she might have thought (as a habit-like) of its
standing in Johnny's light, and might have tried to bring him
through it unbeknownst.'

Sloppy knew his ground well.  To conceal herself in sickness, like
a lower animal; to creep out of sight and coil herself away and die;
had become this woman's instinct.  To catch up in her arms the
sick child who was dear to her, and hide it as if it were a criminal,
and keep off all ministration but such as her own ignorant
tenderness and patience could supply, had become this woman's
idea of maternal love, fidelity, and duty.  The shameful accounts
we read, every week in the Christian year, my lords and
gentlemen and honourable boards, the infamous records of small
official inhumanity, do not pass by the people as they pass by us.
And hence these irrational, blind, and obstinate prejudices, so
astonishing to our magnificence, and having no more reason in
them--God save the Queen and Confound their politics--no, than
smoke has in coming from fire!

'It's not a right place for the poor child to stay in,' said Mrs Boffin.
'Tell us, dear Mr Rokesmith, what to do for the best.'

He had already thought what to do, and the consultation was very
short.  He could pave the way, he said, in half an hour, and then
they would go down to Brentford.  'Pray take me,' said Bella.
Therefore a carriage was ordered, of capacity to take them all, and
in the meantime Sloppy was regaled, feasting alone in the
Secretary's room, with a complete realization of that fairy vision--
meat, beer, vegetables, and pudding.  In consequence of which his
buttons became more importunate of public notice than before,
with the exception of two or three about the region of the
waistband, which modestly withdrew into a creasy retirement.

Punctual to the time, appeared the carriage and the Secretary.  He
sat on the box, and Mr Sloppy graced the rumble.  So, to the Three
Magpies as before: where Mrs Boffin and Miss Bella were handed
out, and whence they all went on foot to Mrs Betty Higden's.

But, on the way down, they had stopped at a toy-shop, and had
bought that noble charger, a description of whose points and
trappings had on the last occasion conciliated the then worldly-
minded orphan, and also a Noah's ark, and also a yellow bird with
an artificial voice in him, and also a military doll so well dressed
that if he had only been of life-size his brother-officers in the
Guards might never have found him out.  Bearing these gifts, they
raised the latch of Betty Higden's door, and saw her sitting in the
dimmest and furthest corner with poor Johnny in her lap.

'And how's my boy, Betty?' asked Mrs Boffin, sitting down beside
her.

'He's bad!  He's bad!' said Betty.  'I begin to be afeerd he'll not be
yours any more than mine.  All others belonging to him have gone
to the Power and the Glory, and I have a mind that they're
drawing him to them--leading him away.'

'No, no, no,' said Mrs Boffin.

'I don't know why else he clenches his little hand as if it had hold
of a finger that I can't see.  Look at it,' said Betty, opening the
wrappers in which the flushed child lay, and showing his small
right hand lying closed upon his breast.  'It's always so.  It don't
mind me.'

'Is he asleep?'

'No, I think not.  You're not asleep, my Johnny?'

'No,' said Johnny, with a quiet air of pity for himself; and without
opening his eyes.

'Here's the lady, Johnny. And the horse.'

Johnny could bear the lady, with complete indifference, but not
the horse.  Opening his heavy eyes, he slowly broke into a smile
on beholding that splendid phenomenon, and wanted to take it in
his arms.  As it was much too big, it was put upon a chair where
he could hold it by the mane and contemplate it.  Which he soon
forgot to do.

But, Johnny murmuring something with his eyes closed, and Mrs
Boffin not knowing what, old Betty bent her ear to listen and took
pains to understand.  Being asked by her to repeat what he had
said, he did so two or three times, and then it came out that he
must have seen more than they supposed when he looked up to
see the horse, for the murmur was, 'Who is the boofer lady?'
Now, the boofer, or beautiful, lady was Bella; and whereas this
notice from the poor baby would have touched her of itself; it was
rendered more pathetic by the late melting of her heart to her poor
little father, and their joke about the lovely woman.  So, Bella's
behaviour was very tender and very natural when she kneeled on
the brick floor to clasp the child, and when the child, with a child's
admiration of what is young and pretty, fondled the boofer lady.

'Now, my good dear Betty,' said Mrs Boffin, hoping that she saw
her opportunity, and laying her hand persuasively on her arm; 'we
have come to remove Johnny from this cottage to where he can be
taken better care of.'

Instantly, and before another word could be spoken, the old
woman started up with blazing eyes, and rushed at the door with
the sick child.

'Stand away from me every one of ye!' she cried out wildly.  'I see
what ye mean now.  Let me go my way, all of ye.  I'd sooner kill
the Pretty, and kill myself!'

'Stay, stay!' said Rokesmith, soothing her.  'You don't understand.'

'I understand too well.  I know too much about it, sir.  I've run
from it too many a year.  No!  Never for me, nor for the child,
while there's water enough in England to cover us!'

The terror, the shame, the passion of horror and repugnance, firing
the worn face and perfectly maddening it, would have been a
quite terrible sight, if embodied in one old fellow-creature alone.
Yet it 'crops up'--as our slang goes--my lords and gentlemen and
honourable boards, in other fellow-creatures, rather frequently!

'It's been chasing me all my life, but it shall never take me nor
mine alive!' cried old Betty.  'I've done with ye.  I'd have fastened
door and window and starved out, afore I'd ever have let ye in, if I
had known what ye came for!'

But, catching sight of Mrs Boffin's wholesome face, she relented,
and crouching down by the door and bending over her burden to
hush it, said humbly: 'Maybe my fears has put me wrong.  If they
have so, tell me, and the good Lord forgive me!  I'm quick to take
this fright, I know, and my head is summ'at light with wearying
and watching.'

'There, there, there!' returned Mrs Boffin.  'Come, come!  Say no
more of it, Betty.  It was a mistake, a mistake.  Any one of us
might have made it in your place, and felt just as you do.'

'The Lord bless ye!' said the old woman, stretching out her hand.

'Now, see, Betty,' pursued the sweet compassionate soul, holding
the hand kindly, 'what I really did mean, and what I should have
begun by saying out, if I had only been a little wiser and handier.
We want to move Johnny to a place where there are none but
children; a place set up on purpose for sick children; where the
good doctors and nurses pass their lives with children, talk to none
but children, touch none but children, comfort and cure none but
children.'

'Is there really such a place?' asked the old woman, with a gaze of
wonder.

'Yes, Betty, on my word, and you shall see it.  If my home was a
better place for the dear boy, I'd take him to it; but indeed indeed
it's not.'

'You shall take him,' returned Betty, fervently kissing the
comforting hand, 'where you will, my deary.  I am not so hard, but
that I believe your face and voice, and I will, as long as I can see
and hear.'

This victory gained, Rokesmith made haste to profit by it, for he
saw how woefully time had been lost.  He despatched Sloppy to
bring the carriage to the door; caused the child to be carefully
wrapped up; bade old Betty get her bonnet on; collected the toys,
enabling the little fellow to comprehend that his treasures were to
be transported with him; and had all things prepared so easily that
they were ready for the carriage as soon as it appeared, and in a
minute afterwards were on their way.  Sloppy they left behind,
relieving his overcharged breast with a paroxysm of mangling.

At the Children's Hospital, the gallant steed, the Noah's ark,
yellow bird, and the officer in the Guards, were made as welcome
as their child-owner.  But the doctor said aside to Rokesmith, 'This
should have been days ago.  Too late!'

However, they were all carried up into a fresh airy room, and
there Johnny came to himself, out of a sleep or a swoon or
whatever it was, to find himself lying in a little quiet bed, with a
little platform over his breast, on which were already arranged, to
give him heart and urge him to cheer up, the Noah's ark, the noble
steed, and the yellow bird; with the officer in the Guards doing
duty over the whole, quite as much to the satisfaction of his
country as if he had been upon Parade.  And at the bed's head was
a coloured picture beautiful to see, representing as it were another
Johnny seated on the knee of some Angel surely who loved little
children.  And, marvellous fact, to lie and stare at: Johnny had
become one of a little family, all in little quiet beds (except two
playing dominoes in little arm-chairs at a little table on the hearth):
and on all the little beds were little platforms whereon were to be
seen dolls' houses, woolly dogs with mechanical barks in them not
very dissimilar from the artificial voice pervading the bowels of
the yellow bird, tin armies, Moorish tumblers, wooden tea things,
and the riches of the earth.

As Johnny murmured something in his placid admiration, the
ministering women at his bed's head asked him what he said.  It
seemed that he wanted to know whether all these were brothers
and sisters of his?  So they told him yes.  It seemed then, that he
wanted to know whether God had brought them all together there?
So they told him yes again.  They made out then, that he wanted
to know whether they would all get out of pain?  So they
answered yes to that question likewise, and made him understand
that the reply included himself.

Johnny's powers of sustaining conversation were as yet so very
imperfectly developed, even in a state of health, that in sickness
they were little more than monosyllabic.  But, he had to be
washed and tended, and remedies were applied, and though those
offices were far, far more skilfully and lightly done than ever
anything had been done for him in his little life, so rough and
short, they would have hurt and tired him but for an amazing
circumstance which laid hold of his attention.  This was no less
than the appearance on his own little platform in pairs, of All
Creation, on its way into his own particular ark: the elephant
leading, and the fly, with a diffident sense of his size, politely
bringing up the rear.  A very little brother lying in the next bed
with a broken leg, was so enchanted by this spectacle that his
delight exalted its enthralling interest; and so came rest and sleep.

'I see you are not afraid to leave the dear child here, Betty,'
whispered Mrs Boffin.

'No, ma'am.  Most willingly, most thankfully, with all my heart and
soul.'

So, they kissed him, and left him there, and old Betty was to come
back early in the morning, and nobody but Rokesmith knew for
certain how that the doctor had said, 'This should have been days
ago.  Too late!'

But, Rokesmith knowing it, and knowing that his bearing it in
mind would be acceptable thereafter to that good woman who had
been the only light in the childhood of desolate John Harmon dead
and gone, resolved that late at night he would go back to the
bedside of John Harmon's namesake, and see how it fared with
him.

The family whom God had brought together were not all asleep,
but were all quiet.  From bed to bed, a light womanly tread and a
pleasant fresh face passed in the silence of the night.  A little head
would lift itself up into the softened light here and there, to be
kissed as the face went by--for these little patients are very loving
--and would then submit itself to be composed to rest again.  The
mite with the broken leg was restless, and moaned; but after a
while turned his face towards Johnny's bed, to fortify himself with
a view of the ark, and fell asleep.  Over most of the beds, the toys
were yet grouped as the children had left them when they last laid
themselves down, and, in their innocent grotesqueness and
incongruity, they might have stood for the children's dreams.

The doctor came in too, to see how it fared with Johnny.  And he
and Rokesmith stood together, looking down with compassion on
him.

'What is it, Johnny?' Rokesmith was the questioner, and put an
arm round the poor baby as he made a struggle.

'Him!' said the little fellow.  'Those!'

The doctor was quick to understand children, and, taking the
horse, the ark, the yellow bird, and the man in the Guards, from
Johnny's bed, softly placed them on that of his next neighbour, the
mite with the broken leg.

With a weary and yet a pleased smile, and with an action as if he
stretched his little figure out to rest, the child heaved his body on
the sustaining arm, and seeking Rokesmith's face with his lips,
said:

'A kiss for the boofer lady.'

Having now bequeathed all he had to dispose of, and arranged his
affairs in this world, Johnny, thus speaking, left it.



Chapter 10

A SUCCESSOR


Some of the Reverend Frank Milvey's brethren had found
themselves exceedingly uncomfortable in their minds, because
they were required to bury the dead too hopefully.  But, the
Reverend Frank, inclining to the belief that they were required to
do one or two other things (say out of nine-and-thirty) calculated
to trouble their consciences rather more if they would think as
much about them, held his peace.

Indeed, the Reverend Frank Milvey was a forbearing man, who
noticed many sad warps and blights in the vineyard wherein he
worked, and did not profess that they made him savagely wise.
He only learned that the more he himself knew, in his little limited
human way, the better he could distantly imagine what
Omniscience might know.

Wherefore, if the Reverend Frank had had to read the words that
troubled some of his brethren, and profitably touched innumerable
hearts, in a worse case than Johnny's, he would have done so out
of the pity and humility of his soul.  Reading them over Johnny, he
thought of his own six children, but not of his poverty, and read
them with dimmed eyes.  And very seriously did he and his bright
little wife, who had been listening, look down into the small grave
and walk home arm-in-arm.

There was grief in the aristocratic house, and there was joy in the
Bower.  Mr Wegg argued, if an orphan were wanted, was he not
an orphan himself; and could a better be desired?  And why go
beating about Brentford bushes, seeking orphans forsooth who
had established no claims upon you and made no sacrifices for
you, when here was an orphan ready to your hand who had given
up in your cause, Miss Elizabeth, Master George, Aunt Jane, and
Uncle Parker?

Mr Wegg chuckled, consequently, when he heard the tidings.
Nay, it was afterwards affirmed by a witness who shall at present
be nameless, that in the seclusion of the Bower he poked out his
wooden leg, in the stage-ballet manner, and executed a taunting or
triumphant pirouette on the genuine leg remaining to him.

John Rokesmith's manner towards Mrs Boffin at this time, was
more the manner of a young man towards a mother, than that of a
Secretary towards his employer's wife.  It had always been marked
by a subdued affectionate deference that seemed to have sprung
up on the very day of his engagement; whatever was odd in her
dress or her ways had seemed to have no oddity for him; he had
sometimes borne a quietly-amused face in her company, but still it
had seemed as if the pleasure her genial temper and radiant nature
yielded him, could have been quite as naturally expressed in a tear
as in a smile.  The completeness of his sympathy with her fancy
for having a little John Harmon to protect and rear, he had shown
in every act and word, and now that the kind fancy was
disappointed, he treated it with a manly tenderness and respect for
which she could hardly thank him enough.

'But I do thank you, Mr Rokesmith,' said Mrs Boffin, 'and I thank
you most kindly.  You love children.'

'I hope everybody does.'

'They ought,' said Mrs Boffin; 'but we don't all of us do what we
ought, do us?'

John Rokesmith replied, 'Some among us supply the short-comings
of the rest.  You have loved children well, Mr Boffin has told me.'

Not a bit better than he has, but that's his way; he puts all the good
upon me.  You speak rather sadly, Mr Rokesmith.'

'Do I?'

'It sounds to me so.  Were you one of many children?'  He shook
his head.

'An only child?'

'No there was another.  Dead long ago.'

'Father or mother alive?'

'Dead.'--

'And the rest of your relations?'

'Dead--if I ever had any living.  I never heard of any.'

At this point of the dialogue Bella came in with a light step.  She
paused at the door a moment, hesitating whether to remain or
retire; perplexed by finding that she was not observed.

'Now, don't mind an old lady's talk,' said Mrs Boffin, 'but tell me.
Are you quite sure, Mr Rokesmith, that you have never had a
disappointment in love?'

'Quite sure.  Why do you ask me?'

'Why, for this reason.  Sometimes you have a kind of kept-down
manner with you, which is not like your age.  You can't be thirty?'

'I am not yet thirty.'

Deeming it high time to make her presence known, Bella coughed
here to attract attention, begged pardon, and said she would go,
fearing that she interrupted some matter of business.

'No, don't go,' rejoined Mrs Boffin, 'because we are coming to
business, instead of having begun it, and you belong to it as much
now, my dear Bella, as I do.  But I want my Noddy to consult with
us.  Would somebody be so good as find my Noddy for me?'

Rokesmith departed on that errand, and presently returned
accompanied by Mr Boffin at his jog-trot.  Bella felt a little vague
trepidation as to the subject-matter of this same consultation, until
Mrs Boffin announced it.

'Now, you come and sit by me, my dear,' said that worthy soul,
taking her comfortable place on a large ottoman in the centre of
the room, and drawing her arm through Bella's; 'and Noddy, you
sit here, and Mr Rokesmith you sit there.  Now, you see, what I
want to talk about, is this.  Mr and Mrs Milvey have sent me the
kindest note possible (which Mr Rokesmith just now read to me
out aloud, for I ain't good at handwritings), offering to find me
another little child to name and educate and bring up.  Well.  This
has set me thinking.'

('And she is a steam-ingein at it,' murmured Mr Boffin, in an
admiring parenthesis, 'when she once begins.  It mayn't be so easy
to start her; but once started, she's a ingein.')

'--This has set me thinking, I say,' repeated Mrs Boffin, cordially
beaming under the influence of her husband's compliment, 'and I
have thought two things.  First of all, that I have grown timid of
reviving John Harmon's name.  It's an unfortunate name, and I
fancy I should reproach myself if I gave it to another dear child,
and it proved again unlucky.'

'Now, whether,' said Mr Boffin, gravely propounding a case for his
Secretary's opinion; 'whether one might call that a superstition?'

'It is a matter of feeling with Mrs Boffin,' said Rokesmith, gently.
'The name has always been unfortunate.  It has now this new
unfortunate association connected with it.  The name has died out.
Why revive it?  Might I ask Miss Wilfer what she thinks?'

'It has not been a fortunate name for me,' said Bella, colouring--'or
at least it was not, until it led to my being here--but that is not the
point in my thoughts.  As we had given the name to the poor child,
and as the poor child took so lovingly to me, I think I should feel
jealous of calling another child by it.  I think I should feel as if the
name had become endeared to me, and I had no right to use it so.'

'And that's your opinion?' remarked Mr Boffin, observant of the
Secretary's face and again addressing him.

'I say again, it is a matter of feeling,' returned the Secretary.  'I
think Miss Wilfer's feeling very womanly and pretty.'

'Now, give us your opinion, Noddy,' said Mrs Boffin.

'My opinion, old lady,' returned the Golden Dustman, 'is your
opinion.'

'Then,' said Mrs Boffin, 'we agree not to revive John Harmon's
name, but to let it rest in the grave.  It is, as Mr Rokesmith says, a
matter of feeling, but Lor how many matters ARE matters of
feeling!  Well; and so I come to the second thing I have thought
of.  You must know, Bella, my dear, and Mr Rokesmith, that
when I first named to my husband my thoughts of adopting a little
orphan boy in remembrance of John Harmon, I further named to
my husband that it was comforting to think that how the poor boy
would be benefited by John's own money, and protected from
John's own forlornness.'

'Hear, hear!' cried Mr Boffin.  'So she did.  Ancoar!'

'No, not Ancoar, Noddy, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, 'because I
am going to say something else.  I meant that, I am sure, as I much
as I still mean it.  But this little death has made me ask myself the
question, seriously, whether I wasn't too bent upon pleasing
myself.  Else why did I seek out so much for a pretty child, and a
child quite to my liking?  Wanting to do good, why not do it for its
own sake, and put my tastes and likings by?'

'Perhaps,' said Bella; and perhaps she said it with some little
sensitiveness arising out of those old curious relations of hers
towards the murdered man; 'perhaps, in reviving the name, you
would not have liked to give it to a less interesting child than the
original.  He interested you very much.'

'Well, my dear,' returned Mrs Boffin, giving her a squeeze, 'it's
kind of you to find that reason out, and I hope it may have been
so, and indeed to a certain extent I believe it was so, but I am
afraid not to the whole extent.  However, that don't come in
question now, because we have done with the name.'

'Laid it up as a remembrance,' suggested Bella, musingly.

'Much better said, my dear; laid it up as a remembrance.  Well
then; I have been thinking if I take any orphan to provide for, let it
not be a pet and a plaything for me, but a creature to be helped for
its own sake.'

'Not pretty then?' said Bella.

'No,' returned Mrs Boffin, stoutly.

'Nor prepossessing then?' said Bella.

'No,' returned Mrs Boffin.  'Not necessarily so.  That's as it may
happen.  A well-disposed boy comes in my way who may be even
a little wanting in such advantages for getting on in life, but is
honest and industrious and requires a helping hand and deserves
it.  If I am very much in earnest and quite determined to be
unselfish, let me take care of HIM.'

Here the footman whose feelings had been hurt on the former
occasion, appeared, and crossing to Rokesmith apologetically
announced the objectionable Sloppy.

The four members of Council looked at one another, and paused.
'Shall he be brought here, ma'am?' asked Rokesmith.

'Yes,' said Mrs Boffin.  Whereupon the footman disappeared,
reappeared presenting Sloppy, and retired much disgusted.

The consideration of Mrs Boffin had clothed Mr Sloppy in a suit
of black, on which the tailor had received personal directions from
Rokesmith to expend the utmost cunning of his art, with a view to
the concealment of the cohering and sustaining buttons.  But, so
much more powerful were the frailties of Sloppy's form than the
strongest resources of tailoring science, that he now stood before
the Council, a perfect Argus in the way of buttons: shining and
winking and gleaming and twinkling out of a hundred of those
eyes of bright metal, at the dazzled spectators.  The artistic taste
of some unknown hatter had furnished him with a hatband of
wholesale capacity which was fluted behind, from the crown of
his hat to the brim, and terminated in a black bunch, from which
the imagination shrunk discomfited and the reason revolted.  Some
special powers with which his legs were endowed, had already
hitched up his glossy trousers at the ankles, and bagged them at
the knees; while similar gifts in his arms had raised his coat-
sleeves from his wrists and accumulated them at his elbows.  Thus
set forth, with the additional embellishments of a very little tail to
his coat, and a yawning gulf at his waistband, Sloppy stood
confessed.

'And how is Betty, my good fellow?' Mrs Boffin asked him.

'Thankee, mum,' said Sloppy, 'she do pretty nicely, and sending
her dooty and many thanks for the tea and all faviours and
wishing to know the family's healths.'

'Have you just come, Sloppy?'

'Yes, mum.'

'Then you have not had your dinner yet?'

'No, mum.  But I mean to it.  For I ain't forgotten your handsome
orders that I was never to go away without having had a good 'un
off of meat and beer and pudding--no: there was four of 'em, for I
reckoned 'em up when I had 'em; meat one, beer two, vegetables
three, and which was four?--Why, pudding, HE was four!'  Here
Sloppy threw his head back, opened his mouth wide, and laughed
rapturously.

'How are the two poor little Minders?' asked Mrs Boffin.

'Striking right out, mum, and coming round beautiful.'

Mrs Boffin looked on the other three members of Council, and
then said, beckoning with her finger:

'Sloppy.'

'Yes, mum.'

'Come forward, Sloppy.  Should you like to dine here every day?'

'Off of all four on 'em, mum?  O mum!'  Sloppy's feelings obliged
him to squeeze his hat, and contract one leg at the knee.

'Yes.  And should you like to be always taken care of here, if you
were industrious and deserving?'

'Oh, mum!--But there's Mrs Higden,' said Sloppy, checking himself
in his raptures, drawing back, and shaking his head with very
serious meaning.  'There's Mrs Higden.  Mrs Higden goes before
all.  None can ever be better friends to me than Mrs Higden's
been.  And she must be turned for, must Mrs Higden.  Where
would Mrs Higden be if she warn't turned for!'  At the mere
thought of Mrs Higden in this inconceivable affliction, Mr
Sloppy's countenance became pale, and manifested the most
distressful emotions.

'You are as right as right can be, Sloppy,' said Mrs Boffin 'and far
be it from me to tell you otherwise.  It shall be seen to.  If Betty
Higden can be turned for all the same, you shall come here and be
taken care of for life, and be made able to keep her in other ways
than the turning.'

'Even as to that, mum,' answered the ecstatic Sloppy, 'the turning
might be done in the night, don't you see?  I could be here in the
day, and turn in the night.  I don't want no sleep, I don't.  Or even
if I any ways should want a wink or two,' added Sloppy, after a
moment's apologetic reflection, 'I could take 'em turning.  I've took
'em turning many a time, and enjoyed 'em wonderful!'

On the grateful impulse of the moment, Mr Sloppy kissed Mrs
Boffin's hand, and then detaching himself from that good creature
that he might have room enough for his feelings, threw back his
head, opened his mouth wide, and uttered a dismal howl.  It was
creditable to his tenderness of heart, but suggested that he might
on occasion give some offence to the neighbours: the rather, as
the footman looked in, and begged pardon, finding he was not
wanted, but excused himself; on the ground 'that he thought it was
Cats.'



Chapter 11

SOME AFFAIRS OF THE HEART


Little Miss Peecher, from her little official dwelling-house, with its
little windows like the eyes in needles, and its little doors like the
covers of school-books, was very observant indeed of the object
of her quiet affections.  Love, though said to be afflicted with
blindness, is a vigilant watchman, and Miss Peecher kept him on
double duty over Mr Bradley Headstone.  It was not that she was
naturally given to playing the spy--it was not that she was at all
secret, plotting, or mean--it was simply that she loved the
irresponsive Bradley with all the primitive and homely stock of
love that had never been examined or certificated out of her.  If
her faithful slate had had the latent qualities of sympathetic paper,
and its pencil those of invisible ink, many a little treatise
calculated to astonish the pupils would have come bursting
through the dry sums in school-time under the warming influence
of Miss Peecher's bosom.  For, oftentimes when school was not,
and her calm leisure and calm little house were her own, Miss
Peecher would commit to the confidential slate an imaginary
description of how, upon a balmy evening at dusk, two figures
might have been observed in the market-garden ground round the
corner, of whom one, being a manly form, bent over the other,
being a womanly form of short stature and some compactness, and
breathed in a low voice the words, 'Emma Peecher, wilt thou be
my own?' after which the womanly form's head reposed upon the
manly form's shoulder, and the nightingales tuned up.  Though all
unseen, and unsuspected by the pupils, Bradley Headstone even
pervaded the school exercises.  Was Geography in question?  He
would come triumphantly flying out of Vesuvius and Aetna ahead
of the lava, and would boil unharmed in the hot springs of Iceland,
and would float majestically down the Ganges and the Nile.  Did
History chronicle a king of men?  Behold him in pepper-and-salt
pantaloons, with his watch-guard round his neck.  Were copies to
be written?  In capital B's and H's most of the girls under Miss
Peecher's tuition were half a year ahead of every other letter in
the alphabet.  And Mental Arithmetic, administered by Miss
Peecher, often devoted itself to providing Bradley Headstone with
a wardrobe of fabulous extent: fourscore and four neck-ties at two
and ninepence-halfpenny, two gross of silver watches at four
pounds fifteen and sixpence, seventy-four black hats at eighteen
shillings; and many similar superfluities.

The vigilant watchman, using his daily opportunities of turning his
eyes in Bradley's direction, soon apprized Miss Peecher that
Bradley was more preoccupied than had been his wont, and more
given to strolling about with a downcast and reserved face, turning
something difficult in his mind that was not in the scholastic
syllabus.  Putting this and that together--combining under the head
'this,' present appearances and the intimacy with Charley Hexam,
and ranging under the head 'that' the visit to his sister, the
watchman reported to Miss Peecher his strong suspicions that the
sister was at the bottom of it.

'I wonder,' said Miss Peecher, as she sat making up her weekly
report on a half-holiday afternoon, 'what they call Hexam's sister?'

Mary Anne, at her needlework, attendant and attentive, held her
arm up.

'Well, Mary Anne?'

'She is named Lizzie, ma'am.'

'She can hardly be named Lizzie, I think, Mary Anne,' returned
Miss Peecher, in a tunefully instructive voice.  'Is Lizzie a
Christian name, Mary Anne?'

Mary Anne laid down her work, rose, hooked herself behind, as
being under catechization, and replied: 'No, it is a corruption, Miss
Peecher.'

'Who gave her that name?' Miss Peecher was going on, from the
mere force of habit, when she checked herself; on Mary Anne's
evincing theological impatience to strike in with her godfathers
and her godmothers, and said: 'I mean of what name is it a
corruption?'

'Elizabeth, or Eliza, Miss Peecher.'

'Right, Mary Anne.  Whether there were any Lizzies in the early
Christian Church must be considered very doubtful, very
doubtful.'  Miss Peecher was exceedingly sage here.  'Speaking
correctly, we say, then, that Hexam's sister is called Lizzie; not
that she is named so.  Do we not, Mary Anne?'

'We do, Miss Peecher.'

'And where,' pursued Miss Peecher, complacent in her little
transparent fiction of conducting the examination in a semiofficial
manner for Mary Anne's benefit, not her own, 'where does this
young woman, who is called but not named Lizzie, live?  Think,
now, before answering.'

'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank, ma'am.'

'In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, as if possessed beforehand of the book in which it was
written.  Exactly so.  And what occupation does this young
woman pursue, Mary Anne?  Take time.'

'She has a place of trust at an outfitter's in the City, ma'am.'

'Oh!' said Miss Peecher, pondering on it; but smoothly added, in a
confirmatory tone, 'At an outfitter's in the City.  Ye-es?'

'And Charley--'  Mary Anne was proceeding, when Miss Peecher
stared.

'I mean Hexam, Miss Peecher.'

'I should think you did, Mary Anne.  I am glad to hear you do.
And Hexam--'

'Says,' Mary Anne went on, 'that he is not pleased with his sister,
and that his sister won't be guided by his advice, and persists in
being guided by somebody else's; and that--'

'Mr Headstone coming across the garden!' exclaimed Miss
Peecher, with a flushed glance at the looking-glass.  'You have
answered very well, Mary Anne.  You are forming an excellent
habit of arranging your thoughts clearly.  That will do.'

The discreet Mary Anne resumed her seat and her silence, and
stitched, and stitched, and was stitching when the schoolmaster's
shadow came in before him, announcing that he might be instantly
expected.

'Good evening, Miss Peecher,' he said, pursuing the shadow, and
taking its place.

'Good evening, Mr Headstone.  Mary Anne, a chair.'

'Thank you,' said Bradley, seating himself in his constrained
manner.  'This is but a flying visit.  I have looked in, on my way, to
ask a kindness of you as a neighbour.'

'Did you say on your way, Mr Headstone?' asked Miss Peecher.

'On my way to--where I am going.'

'Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated Miss
Peecher, in her own thoughts.

'Charley Hexam has gone to get a book or two he wants, and will
probably be back before me.  As we leave my house empty, I took
the liberty of telling him I would leave the key here.  Would you
kindly allow me to do so?'

'Certainly, Mr Headstone.  Going for an evening walk, sir?'

'Partly for a walk, and partly for--on business.'

'Business in Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,' repeated
Miss Peecher to herself.

'Having said which,' pursued Bradley, laying his door-key on the
table, 'I must be already going.  There is nothing I can do for you,
Miss Peecher?'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone.  In which direction?'

'In the direction of Westminster.'

'Mill Bank,' Miss Peecher repeated in her own thoughts once
again.  'No, thank you, Mr Headstone; I'll not trouble you.'

'You couldn't trouble me,' said the schoolmaster.

'Ah!' returned Miss Peecher, though not aloud; 'but you can
trouble ME!'  And for all her quiet manner, and her quiet smile,
she was full of trouble as he went his way.

She was right touching his destination.  He held as straight a
course for the house of the dolls' dressmaker as the wisdom of his
ancestors, exemplified in the construction of the intervening
streets, would let him, and walked with a bent head hammering at
one fixed idea.  It had been an immoveable idea since he first set
eyes upon her.  It seemed to him as if all that he could suppress in
himself he had suppressed, as if all that he could restrain in
himself he had restrained, and the time had come--in a rush, in a
moment--when the power of self-command had departed from
him.  Love at first sight is a trite expression quite sufficiently
discussed; enough that in certain smouldering natures like this
man's, that passion leaps into a blaze, and makes such head as fire
does in a rage of wind, when other passions, but for its mastery,
could be held in chains.  As a multitude of weak, imitative natures
are always lying by, ready to go mad upon the next wrong idea
that may be broached--in these times, generally some form of
tribute to Somebody for something that never was done, or, if ever
done, that was done by Somebody Else--so these less ordinary
natures may lie by for years, ready on the touch of an instant to
burst into flame.

The schoolmaster went his way, brooding and brooding, and a
sense of being vanquished in a struggle might have been pieced
out of his worried face.  Truly, in his breast there lingered a
resentful shame to find himself defeated by this passion for
Charley Hexam's sister, though in the very self-same moments he
was concentrating himself upon the object of bringing the passion
to a successful issue.

He appeared before the dolls' dressmaker, sitting alone at her
work.  'Oho!' thought that sharp young personage, 'it's you, is it?  I
know your tricks and your manners, my friend!'

'Hexam's sister,' said Bradley Headstone, 'is not come home yet?'

'You are quite a conjuror,' returned Miss Wren.

'I will wait, if you please, for I want to speak to her.'

'Do you?' returned Miss Wren.  'Sit down.  I hope it's mutual.'
Bradley glanced distrustfully at the shrewd face again bending
over the work, and said, trying to conquer doubt and hesitation:

'I hope you don't imply that my visit will be unacceptable to
Hexam's sister?'

'There!  Don't call her that.  I can't bear you to call her that,'
returned Miss Wren, snapping her fingers in a volley of impatient
snaps, 'for I don't like Hexam.'

'Indeed?'

'No.'  Miss Wren wrinkled her nose, to express dislike.  'Selfish.
Thinks only of himself.  The way with all of you.'

'The way with all of us?  Then you don't like ME?'

'So-so,' replied Miss Wren, with a shrug and a laugh.  'Don't know
much about you.'

'But I was not aware it was the way with all of us,' said Bradley,
returning to the accusation, a little injured.  'Won't you say, some
of us?'

'Meaning,' returned the little creature, 'every one of you, but you.
Hah! Now look this lady in the face.  This is Mrs Truth.  The
Honourable.  Full-dressed.'

Bradley glanced at the doll she held up for his observation--which
had been lying on its face on her bench, while with a needle and
thread she fastened the dress on at the back--and looked from it to
her.

'I stand the Honourable Mrs T. on my bench in this corner against
the wall, where her blue eyes can shine upon you,' pursued Miss
Wren, doing so, and making two little dabs at him in the air with
her needle, as if she pricked him with it in his own eyes; 'and I
defy you to tell me, with Mrs T. for a witness, what you have
come here for.'

'To see Hexam's sister.'

'You don't say so!' retorted Miss Wren, hitching her chin.  'But on
whose account?'

'Her own.'

'O Mrs T.!' exclaimed Miss Wren.  'You hear him!'

'To reason with her,' pursued Bradley, half humouring what was
present, and half angry with what was not present; 'for her own
sake.'

'Oh Mrs T.!' exclaimed the dressmaker.

'For her own sake,' repeated Bradley, warming, 'and for her
brother's, and as a perfectly disinterested person.'

'Really, Mrs T.,' remarked the dressmaker, 'since it comes to this,
we must positively turn you with your face to the wall.'  She had
hardly done so, when Lizzie Hexam arrived, and showed some
surprise on seeing Bradley Headstone there, and Jenny shaking
her little fist at him close before her eyes, and the Honourable Mrs
T. with her face to the wall.

'Here's a perfectly disinterested person, Lizzie dear,' said the
knowing Miss Wren, 'come to talk with you, for your own sake
and your brother's.  Think of that.  I am sure there ought to be no
third party present at anything so very kind and so very serious;
and so, if you'll remove the third party upstairs, my dear, the third
party will retire.'

Lizzie took the hand which the dolls' dressmaker held out to her
for the purpose of being supported away, but only looked at her
with an inquiring smile, and made no other movement.

'The third party hobbles awfully, you know, when she's left to
herself;' said Miss Wren, 'her back being so bad, and her legs so
queer; so she can't retire gracefully unless you help her, Lizzie.'

'She can do no better than stay where she is,' returned Lizzie,
releasing the hand, and laying her own lightly on Miss Jenny's
curls.  And then to Bradley: 'From Charley, sir?'

In an irresolute way, and stealing a clumsy look at her, Bradley
rose to place a chair for her, and then returned to his own.

'Strictly speaking,' said he, 'I come from Charley, because I left
him only a little while ago; but I am not commissioned by Charley.
I come of my own spontaneous act.'

With her elbows on her bench, and her chin upon her hands, Miss
Jenny Wren sat looking at him with a watchful sidelong look.
Lizzie, in her different way, sat looking at him too.

'The fact is,' began Bradley, with a mouth so dry that he had some
difficulty in articulating his words: the consciousness of which
rendered his manner still more ungainly and undecided; 'the truth
is, that Charley, having no secrets from me (to the best of my
belief), has confided the whole of this matter to me.'

He came to a stop, and Lizzie asked: 'what matter, sir?'

'I thought,' returned the schoolmaster, stealing another look at her,
and seeming to try in vain to sustain it; for the look dropped as it
lighted on her eyes, 'that it might be so superfluous as to be almost
impertinent, to enter upon a definition of it.  My allusion was to
this matter of your having put aside your brother's plans for you,
and given the preference to those of Mr--I believe the name is Mr
Eugene Wrayburn.'

He made this point of not being certain of the name, with another
uneasy look at her, which dropped like the last.

Nothing being said on the other side, he had to begin again, and
began with new embarrassment.

'Your brother's plans were communicated to me when he first had
them in his thoughts.  In point of fact he spoke to me about them
when I was last here--when we were walking back together, and
when I--when the impression was fresh upon me of having seen
his sister.'

There might have been no meaning in it, but the little dressmaker
here removed one of her supporting hands from her chin, and
musingly turned the Honourable Mrs T. with her face to the
company.  That done, she fell into her former attitude.

'I approved of his idea,' said Bradley, with his uneasy look
wandering to the doll, and unconsciously resting there longer than
it had rested on Lizzie, 'both because your brother ought naturally
to be the originator of any such scheme, and because I hoped to
be able to promote it.  I should have had inexpressible pleasure, I
should have taken inexpressible interest, in promoting it.
Therefore I must acknowledge that when your brother was
disappointed, I too was disappointed.  I wish to avoid reservation
or concealment, and I fully acknowledge that.'

He appeared to have encouraged himself by having got so far.  At
all events he went on with much greater firmness and force of
emphasis: though with a curious disposition to set his teeth, and
with a curious tight-screwing movement of his right hand in the
clenching palm of his left, like the action of one who was being
physically hurt, and was unwilling to cry out.

'I am a man of strong feelings, and I have strongly felt this
disappointment.  I do strongly feel it.  I don't show what I feel;
some of us are obliged habitually to keep it down.  To keep it
down.  But to return to your brother.  He has taken the matter so
much to heart that he has remonstrated (in my presence he
remonstrated) with Mr Eugene Wrayburn, if that be the name.  He
did so, quite ineffectually.  As any one not blinded to the real
character of Mr--Mr Eugene Wrayburn--would readily suppose.'

He looked at Lizzie again, and held the look.  And his face turned
from burning red to white, and from white back to burning red,
and so for the time to lasting deadly white.

'Finally, I resolved to come here alone, and appeal to you.  I
resolved to come here alone, and entreat you to retract the course
you have chosen, and instead of confiding in a mere stranger--a
person of most insolent behaviour to your brother and others--to
prefer your brother and your brother's friend.'

Lizzie Hexam had changed colour when those changes came over
him, and her face now expressed some anger, more dislike, and
even a touch of fear.  But she answered him very steadily.

'I cannot doubt, Mr Headstone, that your visit is well meant.  You
have been so good a friend to Charley that I have no right to
doubt it.  I have nothing to tell Charley, but that I accepted the
help to which he so much objects before he made any plans for
me; or certainly before I knew of any.  It was considerately and
delicately offered, and there were reasons that had weight with me
which should be as dear to Charley as to me.  I have no more to
say to Charley on this subject.'

His lips trembled and stood apart, as he followed this repudiation
of himself; and limitation of her words to her brother.

'I should have told Charley, if he had come to me,' she resumed, as
though it were an after-thought, 'that Jenny and I find our teacher
very able and very patient, and that she takes great pains with us.
So much so, that we have said to her we hope in a very little while
to be able to go on by ourselves.  Charley knows about teachers,
and I should also have told him, for his satisfaction, that ours
comes from an institution where teachers are regularly brought
up.'

'I should like to ask you,' said Bradley Headstone, grinding his
words slowly out, as though they came from a rusty mill; 'I should
like to ask you, if I may without offence, whether you would have
objected--no; rather, I should like to say, if I may without offence,
that I wish I had had the opportunity of coming here with your
brother and devoting my poor abilities and experience to your
service.'

'Thank you, Mr Headstone.'

'But I fear,' he pursued, after a pause, furtively wrenching at the
seat of his chair with one hand, as if he would have wrenched the
chair to pieces, and gloomily observing her while her eyes were
cast down, 'that my humble services would not have found much
favour with you?'

She made no reply, and the poor stricken wretch sat contending
with himself in a heat of passion and torment.  After a while he
took out his handkerchief and wiped his forehead and hands.

'There is only one thing more I had to say, but it is the most
important.  There is a reason against this matter, there is a
personal relation concerned in this matter, not yet explained to
you.  It might--I don't say it would--it might--induce you to think
differently.  To proceed under the present circumstances is out of
the question.  Will you please come to the understanding that
there shall be another interview on the subject?'

'With Charley, Mr Headstone?'

'With--well,' he answered, breaking off, 'yes!  Say with him too.
Will you please come to the understanding that there must be
another interview under more favourable circumstances, before
the whole case can be submitted?'

'I don't,' said Lizzie, shaking her head, 'understand your meaning,
Mr Headstone.'

'Limit my meaning for the present,' he interrupted, 'to the whole
case being submitted to you in another interview.'

'What case, Mr Headstone?  What is wanting to it?'

'You--you shall be informed in the other interview.'  Then he said,
as if in a burst of irrepressible despair, 'I--I leave it all incomplete!
There is a spell upon me, I think!'  And then added, almost as if he
asked for pity, 'Good-night!'

He held out his hand.  As she, with manifest hesitation, not to say
reluctance, touched it, a strange tremble passed over him, and his
face, so deadly white, was moved as by a stroke of pain.  Then he
was gone.

The dolls' dressmaker sat with her attitude unchanged, eyeing the
door by which he had departed, until Lizzie pushed her bench
aside and sat down near her.  Then, eyeing Lizzie as she had
previously eyed Bradley and the door, Miss Wren chopped that
very sudden and keen chop in which her jaws sometimes indulged,
leaned back in her chair with folded arms, and thus expressed
herself:

'Humph!  If he--I mean, of course, my dear, the party who is
coming to court me when the time comes--should be THAT sort of
man, he may spare himself the trouble.  HE wouldn't do to be
trotted about and made useful.  He'd take fire and blow up while
he was about it.

'And so you would be rid of him,' said Lizzie, humouring her.

'Not so easily,' returned Miss Wren.  'He wouldn't blow up alone.
He'd carry me up with him.  I know his tricks and his manners.'

'Would he want to hurt you, do you mean?' asked Lizzie.

'Mightn't exactly want to do it, my dear,' returned Miss Wren; 'but
a lot of gunpowder among lighted lucifer-matches in the next
room might almost as well be here.'

'He is a very strange man,' said Lizzie, thoughtfully.

'I wish he was so very strange a man as to be a total stranger,'
answered the sharp little thing.

It being Lizzie's regular occupation when they were alone of an
evening to brush out and smooth the long fair hair of the dolls'
dressmaker, she unfastened a ribbon that kept it back while the
little creature was at her work, and it fell in a beautiful shower
over the poor shoulders that were much in need of such adorning
rain.  'Not now, Lizzie, dear,' said Jenny; 'let us have a talk by the
fire.'  With those words, she in her turn loosened her friend's dark
hair, and it dropped of its own weight over her bosom, in two rich
masses.  Pretending to compare the colours and admire the
contrast, Jenny so managed a mere touch or two of her nimble
hands, as that she herself laying a cheek on one of the dark folds,
seemed blinded by her own clustering curls to all but the fire,
while the fine handsome face and brow of Lizzie were revealed
without obstruction in the sombre light.

'Let us have a talk,' said Jenny, 'about Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

Something sparkled down among the fair hair resting on the dark
hair; and if it were not a star--which it couldn't be--it was an eye;
and if it were an eye, it was Jenny Wren's eye, bright and watchful
as the bird's whose name she had taken.

'Why about Mr Wrayburn?' Lizzie asked.

'For no better reason than because I'm in the humour.  I wonder
whether he's rich!'

'No, not rich.'

'Poor?'

'I think so, for a gentleman.'

'Ah!  To be sure!  Yes, he's a gentleman.  Not of our sort; is he?'
A shake of the head, a thoughtful shake of the head, and the
answer, softly spoken, 'Oh no, oh no!'

The dolls' dressmaker had an arm round her friend's waist.
Adjusting the arm, she slyly took the opportunity of blowing at her
own hair where it fell over her face; then the eye down there,
under lighter shadows sparkled more brightly and appeared more
watchful.

'When He turns up, he shan't be a gentleman; I'll very soon send
him packing, if he is.  However, he's not Mr Wrayburn; I haven't
captivated HIM.  I wonder whether anybody has, Lizzie!'

'It is very likely.'

'Is it very likely?  I wonder who!'

'Is it not very likely that some lady has been taken by him, and
that he may love her dearly?'

'Perhaps. I don't know.  What would you think of him, Lizzie, if
you were a lady?'

'I a lady!' she repeated, laughing.  'Such a fancy!'

'Yes.  But say: just as a fancy, and for instance.'

'I a lady!  I, a poor girl who used to row poor father on the river.
I, who had rowed poor father out and home on the very night
when I saw him for the first time.  I, who was made so timid by his
looking at me, that I got up and went out!'

('He did look at you, even that night, though you were not a lady!'
thought Miss Wren.)

'I a lady!' Lizzie went on in a low voice, with her eyes upon the
fire.  'I, with poor father's grave not even cleared of undeserved
stain and shame, and he trying to clear it for me!  I a lady!'

'Only as a fancy, and for instance,' urged Miss Wren.

'Too much, Jenny, dear, too much!  My fancy is not able to get
that far.'  As the low fire gleamed upon her, it showed her smiling,
mournfully and abstractedly.

'But I am in the humour, and I must be humoured, Lizzie, because
after all I am a poor little thing, and have had a hard day with my
bad child.  Look in the fire, as I like to hear you tell how you used
to do when you lived in that dreary old house that had once been
a windmill.  Look in the--what was its name when you told
fortunes with your brother that I DON'T like?'

'The hollow down by the flare?'

'Ah!  That's the name!  You can find a lady there, I know.'

'More easily than I can make one of such material as myself,
Jenny.'

The sparkling eye looked steadfastly up, as the musing face
looked thoughtfully down.  'Well?' said the dolls' dressmaker, 'We
have found our lady?'

Lizzie nodded, and asked, 'Shall she be rich?'

'She had better be, as he's poor.'

'She is very rich.  Shall she be handsome?'

'Even you can be that, Lizzie, so she ought to be.'

'She is very handsome.'

'What does she say about him?' asked Miss Jenny, in a low voice:
watchful, through an intervening silence, of the face looking down
at the fire.

'She is glad, glad, to be rich, that he may have the money.  She is
glad, glad, to be beautiful, that he may be proud of her.  Her poor
heart--'

'Eh?  Her poor hear?' said Miss Wren.

'Her heart--is given him, with all its love and truth.  She would
joyfully die with him, or, better than that, die for him.  She knows
he has failings, but she thinks they have grown up through his
being like one cast away, for the want of something to trust in, and
care for, and think well of.  And she says, that lady rich and
beautiful that I can never come near, "Only put me in that empty
place, only try how little I mind myself, only prove what a world
of things I will do and bear for you, and I hope that you might
even come to be much better than you are, through me who am so
much worse, and hardly worth the thinking of beside you."'

As the face looking at the fire had become exalted and forgetful in
the rapture of these words, the little creature, openly clearing
away her fair hair with her disengaged hand, had gazed at it with
earnest attention and something like alarm.  Now that the speaker
ceased, the little creature laid down her head again, and moaned,
'O me, O me, O me!'

'In pain, dear Jenny?' asked Lizzie, as if awakened.

'Yes, but not the old pain.  Lay me down, lay me down.  Don't go
out of my sight to-night.  Lock the door and keep close to me.
Then turning away her face, she said in a whisper to herself, 'My
Lizzie, my poor Lizzie! O my blessed children, come back in the
long bright slanting rows, and come for her, not me.  She wants
help more than I, my blessed children!'

She had stretched her hands up with that higher and better look,
and now she turned again, and folded them round Lizzie's neck,
and rocked herself on Lizzie's breast.



Chapter 12

MORE BIRDS OF PREY


Rogue Riderhood dwelt deep and dark in Limehouse Hole, among
the riggers, and the mast, oar and block makers, and the boat-
builders, and the sail-lofts, as in a kind of ship's hold stored full of
waterside characters, some no better than himself, some very
much better, and none much worse.  The Hole, albeit in a general
way not over nice in its choice of company, was rather shy in
reference to the honour of cultivating the Rogue's acquaintance;
more frequently giving him the cold shoulder than the warm hand,
and seldom or never drinking with him unless at his own expense.
A part of the Hole, indeed, contained so much public spirit and
private virtue that not even this strong leverage could move it to
good fellowship with a tainted accuser.  But, there may have been
the drawback on this magnanimous morality, that its exponents
held a true witness before Justice to be the next unneighbourly
and accursed character to a false one.

Had it not been for the daughter whom he often mentioned, Mr
Riderhood might have found the Hole a mere grave as to any
means it would yield him of getting a living.  But Miss Pleasant
Riderhood had some little position and connection in Limehouse
Hole.  Upon the smallest of small scales, she was an unlicensed
pawnbroker, keeping what was popularly called a Leaving Shop,
by lending insignificant sums on insignificant articles of property
deposited with her as security.  In her four-and-twentieth year of
life, Pleasant was already in her fifth year of this way of trade.
Her deceased mother had established the business, and on that
parent's demise she had appropriated a secret capital of fifteen
shillings to establishing herself in it; the existence of such capital
in a pillow being the last intelligible confidential communication
made to her by the departed, before succumbing to dropsical
conditions of snuff and gin, incompatible equally with coherence
and existence.

Why christened Pleasant, the late Mrs Riderhood might possibly
have been at some time able to explain, and possibly not.  Her
daughter had no information on that point.  Pleasant she found
herself, and she couldn't help it.  She had not been consulted on
the question, any more than on the question of her coming into
these terrestrial parts, to want a name.  Similarly, she found
herself possessed of what is colloquially termed a swivel eye
(derived from her father), which she might perhaps have declined
if her sentiments on the subject had been taken.  She was not
otherwise positively ill-looking, though anxious, meagre, of a
muddy complexion, and looking as old again as she really was.

As some dogs have it in the blood, or are trained, to worry certain
creatures to a certain point, so--not to make the comparison
disrespectfully--Pleasant Riderhood had it in the blood, or had
been trained, to regard seamen, within certain limits, as her prey.
Show her a man in a blue jacket, and, figuratively speaking, she
pinned him instantly.  Yet, all things considered, she was not of an
evil mind or an unkindly disposition.  For, observe how many
things were to be considered according to her own unfortunate
experience.  Show Pleasant Riderhood a Wedding in the street,
and she only saw two people taking out a regular licence to
quarrel and fight.  Show her a Christening, and she saw a little
heathen personage having a quite superfluous name bestowed
upon it, inasmuch as it would be commonly addressed by some
abusive epithet: which little personage was not in the least wanted
by anybody, and would be shoved and banged out of everybody's
way, until it should grow big enough to shove and bang.  Show her
a Funeral, and she saw an unremunerative ceremony in the nature
of a black masquerade, conferring a temporary gentility on the
performers, at an immense expense, and representing the only
formal party ever given by the deceased.  Show her a live father,
and she saw but a duplicate of her own father, who from her
infancy had been taken with fits and starts of discharging his duty
to her, which duty was always incorporated in the form of a fist or
a leathern strap, and being discharged hurt her.  All things
considered, therefore, Pleasant Riderhood was not so very, very
bad.  There was even a touch of romance in her--of such romance
as could creep into Limehouse Hole--and maybe sometimes of a
summer evening, when she stood with folded arms at her shop-
door, looking from the reeking street to the sky where the sun was
setting, she may have had some vaporous visions of far-off islands
in the southern seas or elsewhere (not being geographically
particular), where it would be good to roam with a congenial
partner among groves of bread-fruit, waiting for ships to be wafted
from the hollow ports of civilization.  For, sailors to be got the
better of, were essential to Miss Pleasant's Eden.

Not on a summer evening did she come to her little shop-door,
when a certain man standing over against the house on the
opposite side of the street took notice of her.  That was on a cold
shrewd windy evening, after dark.  Pleasant Riderhood shared
with most of the lady inhabitants of the Hole, the peculiarity that
her hair was a ragged knot, constantly coming down behind, and
that she never could enter upon any undertaking without first
twisting it into place.  At that particular moment, being newly
come to the threshold to take a look out of doors, she was winding
herself up with both hands after this fashion.  And so prevalent
was the fashion, that on the occasion of a fight or other
disturbance in the Hole, the ladies would be seen flocking from all
quarters universally twisting their back-hair as they came along,
and many of them, in the hurry of the moment, carrying their
back-combs in their mouths.

It was a wretched little shop, with a roof that any man standing in
it could touch with his hand; little better than a cellar or cave,
down three steps.  Yet in its ill-lighted window, among a flaring
handkerchief or two, an old peacoat or so, a few valueless
watches and compasses, a jar of tobacco and two crossed pipes, a
bottle of walnut ketchup, and some horrible sweets  these creature
discomforts serving as a blind to the main business of the Leaving
Shop--was displayed the inscription SEAMAN'S BOARDING-HOUSE.

Taking notice of Pleasant Riderhood at the door, the man crossed
so quickly that she was still winding herself up, when he stood
close before her.

'Is your father at home?' said he.

'I think he is,' returned Pleasant, dropping her arms; 'come in.'

It was a tentative reply, the man having a seafaring appearance.
Her father was not at home, and Pleasant knew it.  'Take a seat by
the fire,' were her hospitable words when she had got him in; 'men
of your calling are always welcome here.'

'Thankee,' said the man.

His manner was the manner of a sailor, and his hands were the
hands of a sailor, except that they were smooth.  Pleasant had an
eye for sailors, and she noticed the unused colour and texture of
the hands, sunburnt though they were, as sharply as she noticed
their unmistakable looseness and suppleness, as he sat himself
down with his left arm carelessly thrown across his left leg a little
above the knee, and the right arm as carelessly thrown over the
elbow of the wooden chair, with the hand curved, half open and
half shut, as if it had just let go a rope.

'Might you be looking for a Boarding-House?' Pleasant inquired,
taking her observant stand on one side of the fire.

'I don't rightly know my plans yet,' returned the man.

'You ain't looking for a Leaving Shop?'

'No,' said the man.

'No,' assented Pleasant, 'you've got too much of an outfit on you
for that.  But if you should want either, this is both.'

'Ay, ay!' said the man, glancing round the place.  'I know.  I've
been here before.'

'Did you Leave anything when you were here before?' asked
Pleasant, with a view to principal and interest.

'No.'  The man shook his head.

'I am pretty sure you never boarded here?'

'No.'  The man again shook his head.

'What DID you do here when you were here before?' asked
Pleasant.  'For I don't remember you.'

'It's not at all likely you should.  I only stood at the door, one
night--on the lower step there--while a shipmate of mine looked in
to speak to your father.  I remember the place well.'  Looking very
curiously round it.

'Might that have been long ago?'

'Ay, a goodish bit ago.  When I came off my last voyage.'

'Then you have not been to sea lately?'

'No.  Been in the sick bay since then, and been employed ashore.'

'Then, to be sure, that accounts for your hands.'

The man with a keen look, a quick smile, and a change of manner,
caught her up.  'You're a good observer.  Yes.  That accounts for
my hands.'

Pleasant was somewhat disquieted by his look, and returned it
suspiciously.  Not only was his change of manner, though very
sudden, quite collected, but his former manner, which he resumed,
had a certain suppressed confidence and sense of power in it that
were half threatening.

'Will your father be long?' he inquired.

'I don't know.  I can't say.'

'As you supposed he was at home, it would seem that he has just
gone out?  How's that?'

'I supposed he had come home,' Pleasant explained.

'Oh! You supposed he had come home?  Then he has been some
time out?  How's that?'

'I don't want to deceive you.  Father's on the river in his boat.'

'At the old work?' asked the man.

'I don't know what you mean,' said Pleasant, shrinking a step back.
'What on earth d'ye want?'

'I don't want to hurt your father.  I don't want to say I might, if I
chose.  I want to speak to him.  Not much in that, is there?  There
shall be no secrets from you; you shall be by.  And plainly, Miss
Riderhood, there's nothing to be got out of me, or made of me.  I
am not good for the Leaving Shop, I am not good for the
Boarding-House, I am not good for anything in your way to the
extent of sixpenn'orth of halfpence.  Put the idea aside, and we
shall get on together.'

'But you're a seafaring man?' argued Pleasant, as if that were a
sufficient reason for his being good for something in her way.

'Yes and no.  I have been, and I may be again.  But I am not for
you.  Won't you take my word for it?'

The conversation had arrived at a crisis to justify Miss Pleasant's
hair in tumbling down.  It tumbled down accordingly, and she
twisted it up, looking from under her bent forehead at the man.  In
taking stock of his familiarly worn rough-weather nautical clothes,
piece by piece, she took stock of a formidable knife in a sheath at
his waist ready to his hand, and of a whistle hanging round his
neck, and of a short jagged knotted club with a loaded head that
peeped out of a pocket of his loose outer jacket or frock.  He sat
quietly looking at her; but, with these appendages partially
revealing themselves, and with a quantity of bristling oakum-
coloured head and whisker, he had a formidable appearance.

'Won't you take my word for it?' he asked again.

Pleasant answered with a short dumb nod.  He rejoined with
another short dumb nod.  Then he got up and stood with his arms
folded, in front of the fire, looking down into it occasionally, as
she stood with her arms folded, leaning against the side of the
chimney-piece.

'To wile away the time till your father comes,' he said,--'pray is
there much robbing and murdering of seamen about the water-side
now?'

'No,' said Pleasant.

'Any?'

'Complaints of that sort are sometimes made, about Ratcliffe and
Wapping and up that way.  But who knows how many are true?'

'To be sure.  And it don't seem necessary.'

'That's what I say,' observed Pleasant.  'Where's the reason for it?
Bless the sailors, it ain't as if they ever could keep what they have,
without it.'

'You're right.  Their money may be soon got out of them, without
violence,' said the man.

'Of course it may,' said Pleasant; 'and then they ship again and get
more.  And the best thing for 'em, too, to ship again as soon as
ever they can be brought to it.  They're never so well off as when
they're afloat.'

'I'll tell you why I ask,' pursued the visitor, looking up from the
fire.  'I was once beset that way myself, and left for dead.'

'No?' said Pleasant.  'Where did it happen?'

'It happened,' returned the man, with a ruminative air, as he drew
his right hand across his chin, and dipped the other in the pocket
of his rough outer coat, 'it happened somewhere about here as I
reckon.  I don't think it can have been a mile from here.'

'Were you drunk?' asked Pleasant.

'I was muddled, but not with fair drinking.  I had not been
drinking, you understand.  A mouthful did it.'

Pleasant with a grave look shook her head; importing that she
understood the process, but decidedly disapproved.

'Fair trade is one thing,' said she, 'but that's another.  No one has a
right to carry on with Jack in THAT way.'

'The sentiment does you credit,' returned the man, with a grim
smile; and added, in a mutter, 'the more so, as I believe it's not
your father's.--Yes, I had a bad time of it, that time.  I lost
everything, and had a sharp struggle for my life, weak as I was.'

'Did you get the parties punished?' asked Pleasant.

'A tremendous punishment followed,' said the man, more
seriously; 'but it was not of my bringing about.'

'Of whose, then?' asked Pleasant.

The man pointed upward with his forefinger, and, slowly
recovering that hand, settled his chin in it again as he looked at the
fire.  Bringing her inherited eye to bear upon him, Pleasant
Riderhood felt more and more uncomfortable, his manner was so
mysterious, so stern, so self-possessed.

'Anyways,' said the damsel, 'I am glad punishment followed, and I
say so.  Fair trade with seafaring men gets a bad name through
deeds of violence.  I am as much against deeds of violence being
done to seafaring men, as seafaring men can be themselves.  I am
of the same opinion as my mother was, when she was living.  Fair
trade, my mother used to say, but no robbery and no blows.'  In
the way of trade Miss Pleasant would have taken--and indeed did
take when she could--as much as thirty shillings a week for board
that would be dear at five, and likewise conducted the Leaving
business upon correspondingly equitable principles; yet she had
that tenderness of conscience and those feelings of humanity, that
the moment her ideas of trade were overstepped, she became the
seaman's champion, even against her father whom she seldom
otherwise resisted.

But, she was here interrupted by her father's voice exclaiming
angrily, 'Now, Poll Parrot!' and by her father's hat being heavily
flung from his hand and striking her face.  Accustomed to such
occasional manifestations of his sense of parental duty, Pleasant
merely wiped her face on her hair (which of course had tumbled
down) before she twisted it up.  This was another common
procedure on the part of the ladies of the Hole, when heated by
verbal or fistic altercation.

'Blest if I believe such a Poll Parrot as you was ever learned to
speak!' growled Mr Riderhood, stooping to pick up his hat, and
making a feint at her with his head and right elbow; for he took
the delicate subject of robbing seamen in extraordinary dudgeon,
and was out of humour too.  'What are you Poll Parroting at now?
Ain't you got nothing to do but fold your arms and stand a Poll
Parroting all night?'

'Let her alone,' urged the man.  'She was only speaking to me.'

'Let her alone too!' retorted Mr Riderhood, eyeing him all over.
'Do you know she's my daughter?'

'Yes.'

'And don't you know that I won't have no Poll Parroting on the
part of my daughter?  No, nor yet that I won't take no Poll
Parroting from no man?  And who may YOU be, and what may
YOU want?'

'How can I tell you until you are silent?' returned the other
fiercely.

'Well,' said Mr Riderhood, quailing a little, 'I am willing to be
silent for the purpose of hearing.  But don't Poll Parrot me.'

'Are you thirsty, you?' the man asked, in the same fierce short
way, after returning his look.

'Why nat'rally,' said Mr Riderhood, 'ain't I always thirsty!'
(Indignant at the absurdity of the question.)

'What will you drink?' demanded the man.

'Sherry wine,' returned Mr Riderhood, in the same sharp tone, 'if
you're capable of it.'

The man put his hand in his pocket, took out half a sovereign, and
begged the favour of Miss Pleasant that she would fetch a bottle.
'With the cork undrawn,' he added, emphatically, looking at her
father.

'I'll take my Alfred David,' muttered Mr Riderhood, slowly
relaxing into a dark smile, 'that you know a move.  Do I know
YOU?  N--n--no, I don't know you.'

The man replied, 'No, you don't know me.'  And so they stood
looking at one another surlily enough, until Pleasant came back.

'There's small glasses on the shelf,' said Riderhood to his daughter.
'Give me the one without a foot.  I gets my living by the sweat of
my brow, and it's good enough for ME.'  This had a modest self-
denying appearance; but it soon turned out that as, by reason of
the impossibility of standing the glass upright while there was
anything in it, it required to be emptied as soon as filled, Mr
Riderhood managed to drink in the proportion of three to one.

With his Fortunatus's goblet ready in his hand, Mr Riderhood sat
down on one side of the table before the fire, and the strange man
on the other: Pleasant occupying a stool between the latter and the
fireside.  The background, composed of handkerchiefs, coats,
shirts, hats, and other old articles 'On Leaving,' had a general dim
resemblance to human listeners; especially where a shiny black
sou'wester suit and hat hung, looking very like a clumsy mariner
with his back to the company, who was so curious to overhear,
that he paused for the purpose with his coat half pulled on, and his
shoulders up to his ears in the uncompleted action.

The visitor first held the bottle against the light of the candle, and
next examined the top of the cork.  Satisfied that it had not been
tampered with, he slowly took from his breastpocket a rusty clasp-
knife, and, with a corkscrew in the handle, opened the wine.  That
done, he looked at the cork, unscrewed it from the corkscrew, laid
each separately on the table, and, with the end of the sailor's knot
of his neckerchief, dusted the inside of the neck of the bottle.  All
this with great deliberation.

At first Riderhood had sat with his footless glass extended at arm's
length for filling, while the very deliberate stranger seemed
absorbed in his preparations.  But, gradually his arm reverted
home to him, and his glass was lowered and lowered until he
rested it upside down upon the table.  By the same degrees his
attention became concentrated on the knife.  And now, as the man
held out the bottle to fill all round, Riderhood stood up, leaned
over the table to look closer at the knife, and stared from it to him.

'What's the matter?' asked the man.

'Why, I know that knife!' said Riderhood.

'Yes, I dare say you do.'

He motioned to him to hold up his glass, and filled it.  Riderhood
emptied it to the last drop and began again.

'That there knife--'

'Stop,' said the man, composedly.  'I was going to drink to your
daughter.  Your health, Miss Riderhood.'

'That knife was the knife of a seaman named George Radfoot.'

'It was.'

'That seaman was well beknown to me.'

'He was.'

'What's come to him?'

'Death has come to him.  Death came to him in an ugly shape.  He
looked,' said the man, 'very horrible after it.'

'Arter what?' said Riderhood, with a frowning stare.

'After he was killed.'

'Killed?  Who killed him?'

Only answering with a shrug, the man filled the footless glass, and
Riderhood emptied it: looking amazedly from his daughter to his
visitor.

'You don't mean to tell a honest man--' he was recommencing with
his empty glass in his hand, when his eye became fascinated by
the stranger's outer coat.  He leaned across the table to see it
nearer, touched the sleeve, turned the cuff to look at the sleeve-
lining (the man, in his perfect composure, offering not the least
objection), and exclaimed, 'It's my belief as this here coat was
George Radfoot's too!'

'You are right.  He wore it the last time you ever saw him, and the
last time you ever will see him--in this world.'

'It's my belief you mean to tell me to my face you killed him!'
exclaimed Riderhood; but, nevertheless, allowing his glass to be
filled again.

The man only answered with another shrug, and showed no
symptom of confusion.

'Wish I may die if I know what to be up to with this chap!' said
Riderhood, after staring at him, and tossing his last glassful down
his throat.  'Let's know what to make of you.  Say something
plain.'

'I will,' returned the other, leaning forward across the table, and
speaking in a low impressive voice.  'What a liar you are!'

The honest witness rose, and made as though he would fling his
glass in the man's face.  The man not wincing, and merely shaking
his forefinger half knowingly, half menacingly, the piece of
honesty thought better of it and sat down again, putting the glass
down too.

'And when you went to that lawyer yonder in the Temple with that
invented story,' said the stranger, in an exasperatingly comfortable
sort of confidence, 'you might have had your strong suspicions of
a friend of your own, you know.  I think you had, you know.'

'Me my suspicions?  Of what friend?'

'Tell me again whose knife was this?' demanded the man.

'It was possessed by, and was the property of--him as I have made
mention on,' said Riderhood, stupidly evading the actual mention
of the name.

'Tell me again whose coat was this?'

'That there article of clothing likeways belonged to, and was wore
by--him as I have made mention on,' was again the dull Old Bailey
evasion.

'I suspect that you gave him the credit of the deed, and of keeping
cleverly out of the way.  But there was small cleverness in HIS
keeping out of the way.  The cleverness would have been, to have
got back for one single instant to the light of the sun.'

'Things is come to a pretty pass,' growled Mr Riderhood, rising to
his feet, goaded to stand at bay, 'when bullyers as is wearing dead
men's clothes, and bullyers as is armed with dead men's knives, is
to come into the houses of honest live men, getting their livings by
the sweats of their brows, and is to make these here sort of
charges with no rhyme and no reason, neither the one nor yet the
other!  Why should I have had my suspicions of him?'

'Because you knew him,' replied the man; 'because you had been
one with him, and knew his real character under a fair outside;
because on the night which you had afterwards reason to believe
to be the very night of the murder, he came in here, within an hour
of his having left his ship in the docks, and asked you in what
lodgings he could find room.  Was there no stranger with him?'

'I'll take my world-without-end everlasting Alfred David that you
warn't with him,' answered Riderhood.  'You talk big, you do, but
things look pretty black against yourself, to my thinking.  You
charge again' me that George Radfoot got lost sight of, and was no
more thought of.  What's that for a sailor?  Why there's fifty such,
out of sight and out of mind, ten times as long as him--through
entering in different names, re-shipping when the out'ard voyage is
made, and what not--a turning up to light every day about here,
and no matter made of it.  Ask my daughter.  You could go on Poll
Parroting enough with her, when I warn't come in: Poll Parrot a
little with her on this pint.  You and your suspicions of my
suspicions of him!  What are my suspicions of you?  You tell me
George Radfoot got killed.  I ask you who done it and how you
know it.  You carry his knife and you wear his coat.  I ask you
how you come by 'em?  Hand over that there bottle!'  Here Mr
Riderhood appeared to labour under a virtuous delusion that it
was his own property.  'And you,' he added, turning to his
daughter, as he filled the footless glass, 'if it warn't wasting good
sherry wine on you, I'd chuck this at you, for Poll Parroting with
this man.  It's along of Poll Parroting that such like as him gets
their suspicions, whereas I gets mine by argueyment, and being
nat'rally a honest man, and sweating away at the brow as a honest
man ought.'  Here he filled the footless goblet again, and stood
chewing one half of its contents and looking down into the other
as he slowly rolled the wine about in the glass; while Pleasant,
whose sympathetic hair had come down on her being
apostrophised, rearranged it, much in the style of the tail of a
horse when proceeding to market to be sold.

'Well?  Have you finished?' asked the strange man.

'No,' said Riderhood, 'I ain't.  Far from it.  Now then!  I want to
know how George Radfoot come by his death, and how you come
by his kit?'

'If you ever do know, you won't know now.'

'And next I want to know,' proceeded Riderhood 'whether you
mean to charge that what-you-may-call-it-murder--'

'Harmon murder, father,' suggested Pleasant.

'No Poll Parroting!' he vociferated, in return.  'Keep your mouth
shut!--I want to know, you sir, whether you charge that there
crime on George Radfoot?'

'If you ever do know, you won't know now.'

'Perhaps you done it yourself?' said Riderhood, with a threatening
action.

'I alone know,' returned the man, sternly shaking his head, 'the
mysteries of that crime.  I alone know that your trumped-up story
cannot possibly be true.  I alone know that it must be altogether
false, and that you must know it to be altogether false.  I come
here to-night to tell you so much of what I know, and no more.'

Mr Riderhood, with his crooked eye upon his visitor, meditated
for some moments, and then refilled his glass, and tipped the
contents down his throat in three tips.

'Shut the shop-door!' he then said to his daughter, putting the glass
suddenly down.  'And turn the key and stand by it!  If you know
all this, you sir,' getting, as he spoke, between the visitor and the
door, 'why han't you gone to Lawyer Lightwood?'

'That, also, is alone known to myself,' was the cool answer.

'Don't you know that, if you didn't do the deed, what you say you
could tell is worth from five to ten thousand pound?' asked
Riderhood.

'I know it very well, and when I claim the money you shall share it.'

The honest man paused, and drew a little nearer to the visitor, and
a little further from the door.

'I know it,' repeated the man, quietly, 'as well as I know that you
and George Radfoot were one together in more than one dark
business; and as well as I know that you, Roger Riderhood,
conspired against an innocent man for blood-money; and as well
as I know that I can--and that I swear I will!--give you up on both
scores, and be the proof against you in my own person, if you defy
me!'

'Father!' cried Pleasant, from the door.  'Don't defy him!  Give
way to him!  Don't get into more trouble, father!'

'Will you leave off a Poll Parroting, I ask you?' cried Mr
Riderhood, half beside himself between the two.  Then,
propitiatingly and crawlingly: 'You sir!  You han't said what you
want of me.  Is it fair, is it worthy of yourself, to talk of my
defying you afore ever you say what you want of me?'

'I don't want much,' said the man.  'This accusation of yours must
not be left half made and half unmade.  What was done for the
blood-money must be thoroughly undone.'

'Well; but Shipmate--'

'Don't call me Shipmate,' said the man.

'Captain, then,' urged Mr Riderhood; 'there!  You won't object to
Captain.  It's a honourable title, and you fully look it.  Captain!
Ain't the man dead?  Now I ask you fair.  Ain't Gaffer dead?'

'Well,' returned the other, with impatience, 'yes, he is dead.  What
then?'

'Can words hurt a dead man, Captain?  I only ask you fair.'

'They can hurt the memory of a dead man, and they can hurt his
living children.  How many children had this man?'

'Meaning Gaffer, Captain?'

'Of whom else are we speaking?' returned the other, with a
movement of his foot, as if Rogue Riderhood were beginning to
sneak before him in the body as well as the spirit, and he spurned
him off.  'I have heard of a daughter, and a son.  I ask for
information; I ask YOUR daughter; I prefer to speak to her.  What
children did Hexam leave?'

Pleasant, looking to her father for permission to reply, that honest
man exclaimed with great bitterness:

'Why the devil don't you answer the Captain?  You can Poll Parrot
enough when you ain't wanted to Poll Parrot, you perwerse jade!'

Thus encouraged, Pleasant explained that there were only Lizzie,
the daughter in question, and the youth.  Both very respectable,
she added.

'It is dreadful that any stigma should attach to them,' said the
visitor, whom the consideration rendered so uneasy that he rose,
and paced to and fro, muttering, 'Dreadful!  Unforeseen?  How
could it be foreseen!'  Then he stopped, and asked aloud: 'Where
do they live?'

Pleasant further explained that only the daughter had resided with
the father at the time of his accidental death, and that she had
immediately afterwards quitted the neighbourhood.

'I know that,' said the man, 'for I have been to the place they dwelt
in, at the time of the inquest.  Could you quietly find out for me
where she lives now?'

Pleasant had no doubt she could do that.  Within what time, did
she think?  Within a day.  The visitor said that was well, and he
would return for the information, relying on its being obtained.  To
this dialogue Riderhood had attended in silence, and he now
obsequiously bespake the Captain.

'Captain!  Mentioning them unfort'net words of mine respecting
Gaffer, it is contrairily to be bore in mind that Gaffer always were
a precious rascal, and that his line were a thieving line.  Likeways
when I went to them two Governors, Lawyer Lightwood and the
t'other Governor, with my information, I may have been a little
over-eager for the cause of justice, or (to put it another way) a
little over-stimilated by them feelings which rouses a man up,
when a pot of money is going about, to get his hand into that pot
of money for his family's sake.  Besides which, I think the wine of
them two Governors was--I will not say a hocussed wine, but fur
from a wine as was elthy for the mind.  And there's another thing
to be remembered, Captain.  Did I stick to them words when
Gaffer was no more, and did I say bold to them two Governors,
"Governors both, wot I informed I still inform; wot was took down
I hold to"?  No.  I says, frank and open--no shuffling, mind you,
Captain!--"I may have been mistook, I've been a thinking of it, it
mayn't have been took down correct on this and that, and I won't
swear to thick and thin, I'd rayther forfeit your good opinions than
do it."  And so far as I know,' concluded Mr Riderhood, by way of
proof and evidence to character, 'I HAVE actiwally forfeited the
good opinions of several persons--even your own, Captain, if I
understand your words--but I'd sooner do it than be forswore.
There; if that's conspiracy, call me conspirator.'

'You shall sign,' said the visitor, taking very little heed of this
oration, 'a statement that it was all utterly false, and the poor girl
shall have it.  I will bring it with me for your signature, when I
come again.'

'When might you be expected, Captain?' inquired Riderhood,
again dubiously getting between him and door.

'Quite soon enough for you.  I shall not disappoint you; don't be
afraid.'

'Might you be inclined to leave any name, Captain?'

'No, not at all.  I have no such intention.'

'"Shall" is summ'at of a hard word, Captain,' urged Riderhood, still
feebly dodging between him and the door, as he advanced.  'When
you say a man "shall" sign this and that and t'other, Captain, you
order him about in a grand sort of a way.  Don't it seem so to
yourself?'

The man stood still, and angrily fixed him with his eyes.

'Father, father!' entreated Pleasant, from the door, with her
disengaged hand nervously trembling at her lips; 'don't!  Don't get
into trouble any more!'

'Hear me out, Captain, hear me out!  All I was wishing to mention,
Captain, afore you took your departer,' said the sneaking Mr
Riderhood, falling out of his path, 'was, your handsome words
relating to the reward.'

'When I claim it,' said the man, in a tone which seemed to leave
some such words as 'you dog,' very distinctly understood, 'you
shall share it.'

Looking stedfastly at Riderhood, he once more said in a low
voice, this time with a grim sort of admiration of him as a perfect
piece of evil, 'What a liar you are!' and, nodding his head twice or
thrice over the compliment, passed out of the shop.  But, to
Pleasant he said good-night kindly.

The honest man who gained his living by the sweat of his brow
remained in a state akin to stupefaction, until the footless glass
and the unfinished bottle conveyed themselves into his mind.
From his mind he conveyed them into his hands, and so conveyed
the last of the wine into his stomach.  When that was done, he
awoke to a clear perception that Poll Parroting was solely
chargeable with what had passed.  Therefore, not to be remiss in
his duty as a father, he threw a pair of sea-boots at Pleasant,
which she ducked to avoid, and then cried, poor thing, using her
hair for a pocket-handkerchief.



Chapter 13

A SOLO AND A DUETT


The wind was blowing so hard when the visitor came out at the
shop-door into the darkness and dirt of Limehouse Hole, that it
almost blew him in again.  Doors were slamming violently, lamps
were flickering or blown out, signs were rocking in their frames,
the water of the kennels, wind-dispersed, flew about in drops like
rain.  Indifferent to the weather, and even preferring it to better
weather for its clearance of the streets, the man looked about him
with a scrutinizing glance.  'Thus much I know,' he murmured.  'I
have never been here since that night, and never was here before
that night, but thus much I recognize.  I wonder which way did we
take when we came out of that shop.  We turned to the right as I
have turned, but I can recall no more.  Did we go by this alley?
Or down that little lane?'

He tried both, but both confused him equally, and he came
straying back to the same spot.  'I remember there were poles
pushed out of upper windows on which clothes were drying, and I
remember a low public-house, and the sound flowing down a
narrow passage belonging to it of the scraping of a fiddle and the
shuffling of feet.  But here are all these things in the lane, and here
are all these things in the alley.  And I have nothing else in my
mind but a wall, a dark doorway, a flight of stairs, and a room.'

He tried a new direction, but made nothing of it; walls, dark
doorways, flights of stairs and rooms, were too abundant.  And,
like most people so puzzled, he again and again described a circle,
and found himself at the point from which he had begun.  'This is
like what I have read in narratives of escape from prison,' said he,
'where the little track of the fugitives in the night always seems to
take the shape of the great round world, on which they wander; as
if it were a secret law.'

Here he ceased to be the oakum-headed, oakum-whiskered man
on whom Miss Pleasant Riderhood had looked, and, allowing for
his being still wrapped in a nautical overcoat, became as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handford, as never man was like
another in this world.  In the breast of the coat he stowed the
bristling hair and whisker, in a moment, as the favouring wind
went with him down a solitary place that it had swept clear of
passengers.  Yet in that same moment he was the Secretary also,
Mr Boffin's Secretary.  For John Rokesmith, too, was as like that
same lost wanted Mr Julius Handford as never man was like
another in this world.

'I have no clue to the scene of my death,' said he.  'Not that it
matters now.  But having risked discovery by venturing here at all,
I should have been glad to track some part of the way.'  With
which singular words he abandoned his search, came up out of
Limehouse Hole, and took the way past Limehouse Church.  At
the great iron gate of the churchyard he stopped and looked in.
He looked up at the high tower spectrally resisting the wind, and
he looked round at the white tombstones, like enough to the dead
in their winding-sheets, and he counted the nine tolls of the clock-
bell.

'It is a sensation not experienced by many mortals,' said he, 'to be
looking into a churchyard on a wild windy night, and to feel that I
no more hold a place among the living than these dead do, and
even to know that I lie buried somewhere else, as they lie buried
here.  Nothing uses me to it.  A spirit that was once a man could
hardly feel stranger or lonelier, going unrecognized among
mankind, than I feel.

'But this is the fanciful side of the situation.  It has a real side, so
difficult that, though I think of it every day, I never thoroughly
think it out.  Now, let me determine to think it out as I walk home.
I know I evade it, as many men--perhaps most men--do evade
thinking their way through their greatest perplexity.  I will try to
pin myself to mine.  Don't evade it, John Harmon; don't evade it;
think it out!


'When I came to England, attracted to the country with which I
had none but most miserable associations, by the accounts of my
fine inheritance that found me abroad, I came back, shrinking
from my father's money, shrinking from my father's memory,
mistrustful of being forced on a mercenary wife, mistrustful of my
father's intention in thrusting that marriage on me, mistrustful that
I was already growing avaricious, mistrustful that I was slackening
in gratitude to the two dear noble honest friends who had made
the only sunlight in my childish life or that of my heartbroken
sister.  I came back, timid, divided in my mind, afraid of myself
and everybody here, knowing of nothing but wretchedness that
my father's wealth had ever brought about.  Now, stop, and so far
think it out, John Harmon.  Is that so?  That is exactly so.

'On board serving as third mate was George Radfoot.  I knew
nothing of him.  His name first became known to me about a week
before we sailed, through my being accosted by one of the ship-
agent's clerks as "Mr Radfoot."  It was one day when I had gone
aboard to look to my preparations, and the clerk, coming behind
me as I stood on deck, tapped me on the shoulder, and said, "Mr
Rad-foot, look here," referring to some papers that he had in his
hand.  And my name first became known to Radfoot, through
another clerk within a day or two, and while the ship was yet in
port, coming up behind him, tapping him on the shoulder and
beginning, "I beg your pardon, Mr Harmon--."  I believe we were
alike in bulk and stature but not otherwise, and that we were not
strikingly alike, even in those respects, when we were together
and could be compared.

'However, a sociable word or two on these mistakes became an
easy introduction between us, and the weather was hot, and he
helped me to a cool cabin on deck alongside his own, and his first
school had been at Brussels as mine had been, and he had learnt
French as I had learnt it, and he had a little history of himself to
relate--God only knows how much of it true, and how much of it
false--that had its likeness to mine.  I had been a seaman too.  So
we got to be confidential together, and the more easily yet,
because he and every one on board had known by general rumour
what I was making the voyage to England for.  By such degrees
and means, he came to the knowledge of my uneasiness of mind,
and of its setting at that time in the direction of desiring to see and
form some judgment of my allotted wife, before she could
possibly know me for myself; also to try Mrs Boffin and give her a
glad surprise.  So the plot was made out of our getting common
sailors' dresses (as he was able to guide me about London), and
throwing ourselves in Bella Wilfer's neighbourhood, and trying to
put ourselves in her way, and doing whatever chance might favour
on the spot, and seeing what came of it.  If nothing came of it, I
should be no worse off, and there would merely be a short delay
in my presenting myself to Lightwood.  I have all these facts right?
Yes.  They are all accurately right.

'His advantage in all this was, that for a time I was to be lost.  It
might be for a day or for two days, but I must be lost sight of on
landing, or there would be recognition, anticipation, and failure.
Therefore, I disembarked with my valise in my hand--as Potterson
the steward and Mr Jacob Kibble my fellow-passenger afterwards
remembered--and waited for him in the dark by that very
Limehouse Church which is now behind me.

'As I had always shunned the port of London, I only knew the
church through his pointing out its spire from on board.  Perhaps I
might recall, if it were any good to try, the way by which I went to
it alone from the river; but how we two went from it to
Riderhood's shop, I don't know--any more than I know what turns
we took and doubles we made, after we left it.  The way was
purposely confused, no doubt.

'But let me go on thinking the facts out, and avoid confusing them
with my speculations.  Whether he took me by a straight way or a
crooked way, what is that to the purpose now?  Steady, John
Harmon.

'When we stopped at Riderhood's, and he asked that scoundrel a
question or two, purporting to refer only to the lodging-houses in
which there was accommodation for us, had I the least suspicion
of him?  None.  Certainly none until afterwards when I held the
clue.  I think he must have got from Riderhood in a paper, the
drug, or whatever it was, that afterwards stupefied me, but I am
far from sure.  All I felt safe in charging on him to-night, was old
companionship in villainy between them.  Their undisguised
intimacy, and the character I now know Riderhood to bear, made
that not at all adventurous.  But I am not clear about the drug.
Thinking out the circumstances on which I found my suspicion,
they are only two.  One: I remember his changing a small folded
paper from one pocket to another, after we came out, which he
had not touched before.  Two: I now know Riderhood to have
been previously taken up for being concerned in the robbery of an
unlucky seaman, to whom some such poison had been given.

'It is my conviction that we cannot have gone a mile from that
shop, before we came to the wall, the dark doorway, the flight of
stairs, and the room.  The night was particularly dark and it rained
hard.  As I think the circumstances back, I hear the rain splashing
on the stone pavement of the passage, which was not under cover.
The room overlooked the river, or a dock, or a creek, and the tide
was out.  Being possessed of the time down to that point, I know
by the hour that it must have been about low water; but while the
coffee was getting ready, I drew back the curtain (a dark-brown
curtain), and, looking out, knew by the kind of reflection below,
of the few neighbouring lights, that they were reflected in tidal
mud.

'He had carried under his arm a canvas bag, containing a suit of
his clothes.  I had no change of outer clothes with me, as I was to
buy slops.  "You are very wet, Mr Harmon,"--I can hear him
saying--"and I am quite dry under this good waterproof coat.  Put
on these clothes of mine.  You may find on trying them that they
will answer your purpose to-morrow, as well as the slops you
mean to buy, or better.  While you change, I'll hurry the hot
coffee."  When he came back, I had his clothes on, and there was
a black man with him, wearing a linen jacket, like a steward, who
put the smoking coffee on the table in a tray and never looked at
me.  I am so far literal and exact?  Literal and exact, I am certain.

'Now, I pass to sick and deranged impressions; they are so strong,
that I rely upon them; but there are spaces between them that I
know nothing about, and they are not pervaded by any idea of
time.

'I had drank some coffee, when to my sense of sight he began to
swell immensely, and something urged me to rush at him.  We had
a struggle near the door.  He got from me, through my not
knowing where to strike, in the whirling round of the room, and
the flashing of flames of fire between us.  I dropped down.  Lying
helpless on the ground, I was turned over by a foot.  I was dragged
by the neck into a corner.  I heard men speak together.  I was
turned over by other feet.  I saw a figure like myself lying dressed
in my clothes on a bed.  What might have been, for anything I
knew, a silence of days, weeks, months, years, was broken by a
violent wrestling of men all over the room.  The figure like myself
was assailed, and my valise was in its hand.  I was trodden upon
and fallen over.  I heard a noise of blows, and thought it was a
wood-cutter cutting down a tree.  I could not have said that my
name was John Harmon--I could not have thought it--I didn't
know it--but when I heard the blows, I thought of the wood-cutter
and his axe, and had some dead idea that I was lying in a forest.

'This is still correct?  Still correct, with the exception that I cannot
possibly express it to myself without using the word I.  But it was
not I.  There was no such thing as I, within my knowledge.

'It was only after a downward slide through something like a tube,
and then a great noise and a sparkling and crackling as of fires,
that the consciousness came upon me, "This is John Harmon
drowning!  John Harmon, struggle for your life.  John Harmon,
call on Heaven and save yourself!"  I think I cried it out aloud in a
great agony, and then a heavy horrid unintelligible something
vanished, and it was I who was struggling there alone in the water.

'I was very weak and faint, frightfully oppressed with drowsiness,
and driving fast with the tide.  Looking over the black water, I saw
the lights racing past me on the two banks of the river, as if they
were eager to be gone and leave me dying in the dark.  The tide
was running down, but I knew nothing of up or down then.  When,
guiding myself safely with Heaven's assistance before the fierce
set of the water, I at last caught at a boat moored, one of a tier of
boats at a causeway, I was sucked under her, and came up, only
just alive, on the other side.

'Was I long in the water?  Long enough to be chilled to the heart,
but I don't know how long.  Yet the cold was merciful, for it was
the cold night air and the rain that restored me from a swoon on
the stones of the causeway.  They naturally supposed me to have
toppled in, drunk, when I crept to the public-house it belonged to;
for I had no notion where I was, and could not articulate--through
the poison that had made me insensible having affected my
speech--and I supposed the night to be the previous night, as it
was still dark and raining.  But I had lost twenty-four hours.

'I have checked the calculation often, and it must have been two
nights that I lay recovering in that public-house.  Let me see.  Yes.
I am sure it was while I lay in that bed there, that the thought
entered my head of turning the danger I had passed through, to the
account of being for some time supposed to have disappeared
mysteriously, and of proving Bella.  The dread of our being forced
on one another, and perpetuating the fate that seemed to have
fallen on my father's riches--the fate that they should lead to
nothing but evil--was strong upon the moral timidity that dates
from my childhood with my poor sister.

'As to this hour I cannot understand that side of the river where I
recovered the shore, being the opposite side to that on which I
was ensnared, I shall never understand it now.  Even at this
moment, while I leave the river behind me, going home, I cannot
conceive that it rolls between me and that spot, or that the sea is
where it is.  But this is not thinking it out; this is making a leap to
the present time.

'I could not have done it, but for the fortune in the waterproof belt
round my body.  Not a great fortune, forty and odd pounds for the
inheritor of a hundred and odd thousand!  But it was enough.
Without it I must have disclosed myself.  Without it, I could never
have gone to that Exchequer Coffee House, or taken Mrs Wilfer's
lodgings.

'Some twelve days I lived at that hotel, before the night when I
saw the corpse of Radfoot at the Police Station.  The inexpressible
mental horror that I laboured under, as one of the consequences of
the poison, makes the interval seem greatly longer, but I know it
cannot have been longer.  That suffering has gradually weakened
and weakened since, and has only come upon me by starts, and I
hope I am free from it now; but even now, I have sometimes to
think, constrain myself, and stop before speaking, or I could not
say the words I want to say.

'Again I ramble away from thinking it out to the end.  It is not so
far to the end that I need be tempted to break off.  Now, on
straight!

'I examined the newspapers every day for tidings that I was
missing, but saw none.  Going out that night to walk (for I kept
retired while it was light), I found a crowd assembled round a
placard posted at Whitehall.  It described myself, John Harmon, as
found dead and mutilated in the river under circumstances of
strong suspicion, described my dress, described the papers in my
pockets, and stated where I was lying for recognition.  In a wild
incautious way I hurried there, and there--with the horror of the
death I had escaped, before my eyes in its most appalling shape,
added to the inconceivable horror tormenting me at that time
when the poisonous stuff was strongest on me--I perceived that
Radfoot had been murdered by some unknown hands for the
money for which he would have murdered me, and that probably
we had both been shot into the river from the same dark place into
the same dark tide, when the stream ran deep and strong.

'That night I almost gave up my mystery, though I suspected no
one, could offer no information, knew absolutely nothing save that
the murdered man was not I, but Radfoot.  Next day while I
hesitated, and next day while I hesitated, it seemed as if the whole
country were determined to have me dead.  The Inquest declared
me dead, the Government proclaimed me dead; I could not listen
at my fireside for five minutes to the outer noises, but it was borne
into my ears that I was dead.

'So John Harmon died, and Julius Handford disappeared, and John
Rokesmith was born.  John Rokesmith's intent to-night has been to
repair a wrong that he could never have imagined possible,
coming to his ears through the Lightwood talk related to him, and
which he is bound by every consideration to remedy.  In that
intent John Rokesmith will persevere, as his duty is.

'Now, is it all thought out?  All to this time?  Nothing omitted?
No, nothing.  But beyond this time?  To think it out through the
future, is a harder though a much shorter task than to think it out
through the past.  John Harmon is dead.  Should John Harmon
come to life?

'If yes, why?  If no, why?'

'Take yes, first.  To enlighten human Justice concerning the
offence of one far beyond it who may have a living mother.  To
enlighten it with the lights of a stone passage, a flight of stairs, a
brown window-curtain, and a black man.  To come into possession
of my father's money, and with it sordidly to buy a beautiful
creature whom I love--I cannot help it; reason has nothing to do
with it; I love her against reason--but who would as soon love me
for my own sake, as she would love the beggar at the corner.
What a use for the money, and how worthy of its old misuses!

'Now, take no.  The reasons why John Harmon should not come to
life.  Because he has passively allowed these dear old faithful
friends to pass into possession of the property.  Because he sees
them happy with it, making a good use of it, effacing the old rust
and tarnish on the money.  Because they have virtually adopted
Bella, and will provide for her.  Because there is affection enough
in her nature, and warmth enough in her heart, to develop into
something enduringly good, under favourable conditions.  Because
her faults have been intensified by her place in my father's will,
and she is already growing better.  Because her marriage with
John Harmon, after what I have heard from her own lips, would
be a shocking mockery, of which both she and I must always be
conscious, and which would degrade her in her mind, and me in
mine, and each of us in the other's.  Because if John Harmon
comes to life and does not marry her, the property falls into the
very hands that hold it now.

'What would I have?  Dead, I have found the true friends of my
lifetime still as true as tender and as faithful as when I was alive,
and making my memory an incentive to good actions done in my
name.  Dead, I have found them when they might have slighted
my name, and passed greedily over my grave to ease and wealth,
lingering by the way, like single-hearted children, to recall their
love for me when I was a poor frightened child.  Dead, I have
heard from the woman who would have been my wife if I had
lived, the revolting truth that I should have purchased her, caring
nothing for me, as a Sultan buys a slave.

'What would I have?  If the dead could know, or do know, how
the living use them, who among the hosts of dead has found a
more disinterested fidelity on earth than I?  Is not that enough for
me?  If I had come back, these noble creatures would have
welcomed me, wept over me, given up everything to me with joy.
I did not come back, and they have passed unspoiled into my
place.  Let them rest in it, and let Bella rest in hers.

'What course for me then?  This.  To live the same quiet Secretary
life, carefully avoiding chances of recognition, until they shall
have become more accustomed to their altered state, and until the
great swarm of swindlers under many names shall have found
newer prey.  By that time, the method I am establishing through
all the affairs, and with which I will every day take new pains to
make them both familiar, will be, I may hope, a machine in such
working order as that they can keep it going.  I know I need but
ask of their generosity, to have.  When the right time comes, I will
ask no more than will replace me in my former path of life, and
John Rokesmith shall tread it as contentedly as he may.  But John
Harmon shall come back no more.

'That I may never, in the days to come afar off, have any weak
misgiving that Bella might, in any contingency, have taken me for
my own sake if I had plainly asked her, I WILL plainly ask her:
proving beyond all question what I already know too well.  And
now it is all thought out, from the beginning to the end, and my
mind is easier.'


So deeply engaged had the living-dead man been, in thus
communing with himself, that he had regarded neither the wind
nor the way, and had resisted the former instinctively as he had
pursued the latter.  But being now come into the City, where there
was a coach-stand, he stood irresolute whether to go to his
lodgings, or to go first to Mr Boffin's house.  He decided to go
round by the house, arguing, as he carried his overcoat upon his
arm, that it was less likely to attract notice if left there, than if
taken to Holloway: both Mrs Wilfer and Miss Lavinia being
ravenously curious touching every article of which the lodger
stood possessed.

Arriving at the house, he found that Mr and Mrs Boffin were out,
but that Miss Wilfer was in the drawing-room.  Miss Wilfer had
remained at home, in consequence of not feeling very well, and
had inquired in the evening if Mr Rokesmith were in his room.

'Make my compliments to Miss Wilfer, and say I am here now.'

Miss Wilfer's compliments came down in return, and, if it were
not too much trouble, would Mr Rokesmith be so kind as to come
up before he went?

It was not too much trouble, and Mr Rokesmith came up.

Oh she looked very pretty, she looked very, very pretty!  If the
father of the late John Harmon had but left his money
unconditionally to his son, and if his son had but lighted on this
loveable girl for himself, and had the happiness to make her loving
as well as loveable!

'Dear me!  Are you not well, Mr Rokesmith?'

'Yes, quite well.  I was sorry to hear, when I came in, that YOU
were not.'

'A mere nothing.  I had a headache--gone now--and was not quite
fit for a hot theatre, so I stayed at home.  I asked you if you were
not well, because you look so white.'

'Do I?  I have had a busy evening.'

She was on a low ottoman before the fire, with a little shining
jewel of a table, and her book and her work, beside her.  Ah! what
a different life the late John Harmon's, if it had been his happy
privilege to take his place upon that ottoman, and draw his arm
about that waist, and say, 'I hope the time has been long without
me?  What a Home Goddess you look, my darling!'

But, the present John Rokesmith, far removed from the late John
Harmon, remained standing at a distance.  A little distance in
respect of space, but a great distance in respect of separation.

'Mr Rokesmith,' said Bella, taking up her work, and inspecting it
all round the corners, 'I wanted to say something to you when I
could have the opportunity, as an explanation why I was rude to
you the other day.  You have no right to think ill of me, sir.'

The sharp little way in which she darted a look at him, half
sensitively injured, and half pettishly, would have been very much
admired by the late John Harmon.

'You don't know how well I think of you, Miss Wilfer.'

'Truly, you must have a very high opinion of me, Mr Rokesmith,
when you believe that in prosperity I neglect and forget my old
home.'

'Do I believe so?'

'You DID, sir, at any rate,' returned Bella.

'I took the liberty of reminding you of a little omission into which
you had fallen--insensibly and naturally fallen.  It was no more
than that.'

'And I beg leave to ask you, Mr Rokesmith,' said Bella, 'why you
took that liberty?--I hope there is no offence in the phrase; it is
your own, remember.'

'Because I am truly, deeply, profoundly interested in you, Miss
Wilfer.  Because I wish to see you always at your best.  Because
I--shall I go on?'

'No, sir,' returned Bella, with a burning face, 'you have said more
than enough.  I beg that you will NOT go on.  If you have any
generosity, any honour, you will say no more.'

The late John Harmon, looking at the proud face with the down-
cast eyes, and at the quick breathing as it stirred the fall of bright
brown hair over the beautiful neck, would probably have
remained silent.

'I wish to speak to you, sir,' said Bella, 'once for all, and I don't
know how to do it.  I have sat here all this evening, wishing to
speak to you, and determining to speak to you, and feeling that I
must.  I beg for a moment's time.'

He remained silent, and she remained with her face averted,
sometimes making a slight movement as if she would turn and
speak.  At length she did so.

'You know how I am situated here, sir, and you know how I am
situated at home.  I must speak to you for myself, since there is no
one about me whom I could ask to do so.  It is not generous in
you, it is not honourable in you, to conduct yourself towards me
as you do.'

'Is it ungenerous or dishonourable to be devoted to you; fascinated
by you?'

'Preposterous!' said Bella.

The late John Harmon might have thought it rather a
contemptuous and lofty word of repudiation.

'I now feel obliged to go on,' pursued the Secretary, 'though it
were only in self-explanation and self-defence.  I hope, Miss
Wilfer, that it is not unpardonable--even in me--to make an honest
declaration of an honest devotion to you.'

'An honest declaration!' repeated Bella, with emphasis.

'Is it otherwise?'

'I must request, sir,' said Bella, taking refuge in a touch of timely
resentment, 'that I may not be questioned.  You must excuse me if
I decline to be cross-examined.'

'Oh, Miss Wilfer, this is hardly charitable.  I ask you nothing but
what your own emphasis suggests.  However, I waive even that
question.  But what I have declared, I take my stand by.  I cannot
recall the avowal of my earnest and deep attachment to you, and I
do not recall it.'

'I reject it, sir,' said Bella.

'I should be blind and deaf if I were not prepared for the reply.
Forgive my offence, for it carries its punishment with it.'

'What punishment?' asked Bella.

'Is my present endurance none?  But excuse me; I did not mean to
cross-examine you again.'

'You take advantage of a hasty word of mine,' said Bella with a
little sting of self-reproach, 'to make me seem--I don't know what.
I spoke without consideration when I used it.  If that was bad, I
am sorry; but you repeat it after consideration, and that seems to
me to be at least no better.  For the rest, I beg it may be
understood, Mr Rokesmith, that there is an end of this between us,
now and for ever.'

'Now and for ever,' he repeated.

'Yes.  I appeal to you, sir,' proceeded Bella with increasing spirit,
'not to pursue me.  I appeal to you not to take advantage of your
position in this house to make my position in it distressing and
disagreeable.  I appeal to you to discontinue your habit of making
your misplaced attentions as plain to Mrs Boffin as to me.'

'Have I done so?'

'I should think you have,' replied Bella.  'In any case it is not your
fault if you have not, Mr Rokesmith.'

'I hope you are wrong in that impression.  I should be very sorry to
have justified it.  I think I have not.  For the future there is no
apprehension.  It is all over.'

'I am much relieved to hear it,' said Bella.  'I have far other views
in life, and why should you waste your own?'

'Mine!' said the Secretary.  'My life!'

His curious tone caused Bella to glance at the curious smile with
which he said it.  It was gone as he glanced back.  'Pardon me,
Miss Wilfer,' he proceeded, when their eyes met; 'you have used
some hard words, for which I do not doubt you have a justification
in your mind, that I do not understand.  Ungenerous and
dishonourable.  In what?'

'I would rather not be asked,' said Bella, haughtily looking down.

'I would rather not ask, but the question is imposed upon me.
Kindly explain; or if not kindly, justly.'

'Oh, sir!' said Bella, raising her eyes to his, after a little struggle to
forbear, 'is it generous and honourable to use the power here
which your favour with Mr and Mrs Boffin and your ability in
your place give you, against me?'

'Against you?'

'Is it generous and honourable to form a plan for gradually
bringing their influence to bear upon a suit which I have shown
you that I do not like, and which I tell you that I utterly reject?'

The late John Harmon could have borne a good deal, but he would
have been cut to the heart by such a suspicion as this.

'Would it be generous and honourable to step into your place--if
you did so, for I don't know that you did, and I hope you did not--
anticipating, or knowing beforehand, that I should come here, and
designing to take me at this disadvantage?'

'This mean and cruel disadvantage,' said the Secretary.

'Yes,' assented Bella.

The Secretary kept silence for a little while; then merely said,
'You are wholly mistaken, Miss Wilfer; wonderfully mistaken.  I
cannot say, however, that it is your fault.  If I deserve better
things of you, you do not know it.'

'At least, sir,' retorted Bella, with her old indignation rising, 'you
know the history of my being here at all.  I have heard Mr Boffin
say that you are master of every line and word of that will, as you
are master of all his affairs.  And was it not enough that I should
have been willed away, like a horse, or a dog, or a bird; but must
you too begin to dispose of me in your mind, and speculate in me,
as soon as I had ceased to be the talk and the laugh of the town?
Am I for ever to be made the property of strangers?'

'Believe me,' returned the Secretary, 'you are wonderfully
mistaken.'

'I should be glad to know it,' answered Bella.

'I doubt if you ever will.  Good-night.  Of course I shall be careful
to conceal any traces of this interview from Mr and Mrs Boffin, as
long as I remain here.  Trust me, what you have complained of is
at an end for ever.'

'I am glad I have spoken, then, Mr Rokesmith.  It has been painful
and difficult, but it is done.  If I have hurt you, I hope you will
forgive me.  I am inexperienced and impetuous, and I have been a
little spoilt; but I really am not so bad as I dare say I appear, or as
you think me.'

He quitted the room when Bella had said this, relenting in her
wilful inconsistent way.  Left alone, she threw herself back on her
ottoman, and said, 'I didn't know the lovely woman was such a
Dragon!'  Then, she got up and looked in the glass, and said to her
image, 'You have been positively swelling your features, you little
fool!'  Then, she took an impatient walk to the other end of the
room and back, and said, 'I wish Pa was here to have a talk about
an avaricious marriage; but he is better away, poor dear, for I
know I should pull his hair if he WAS here.'  And then she threw
her work away, and threw her book after it, and sat down and
hummed a tune, and hummed it out of tune, and quarrelled with it.

And John Rokesmith, what did he?

He went down to his room, and buried John Harmon many
additional fathoms deep.  He took his hat, and walked out, and, as
he went to Holloway or anywhere else--not at all minding where--
heaped mounds upon mounds of earth over John Harmon's grave.
His walking did not bring him home until the dawn of day.  And so
busy had he been all night, piling and piling weights upon weights
of earth above John Harmon's grave, that by that time John
Harmon lay buried under a whole Alpine range; and still the
Sexton Rokesmith accumulated mountains over him, lightening his
labour with the dirge, 'Cover him, crush him, keep him down!'



Chapter 14

STRONG OF PURPOSE


The sexton-task of piling earth above John Harmon all night long,
was not conducive to sound sleep; but Rokesmith had some
broken morning rest, and rose strengthened in his purpose.  It was
all over now.  No ghost should trouble Mr and Mrs Boffin's peace;
invisible and voiceless, the ghost should look on for a little while
longer at the state of existence out of which it had departed, and
then should for ever cease to haunt the scenes in which it had no
place.

He went over it all again.  He had lapsed into the condition in
which he found himself, as many a man lapses into many a
condition, without perceiving the accumulative power of its
separate circumstances.  When in the distrust engendered by his
wretched childhood and the action for evil--never yet for good
within his knowledge then--of his father and his father's wealth on
all within their influence, he conceived the idea of his first
deception, it was meant to be harmless, it was to last but a few
hours or days, it was to involve in it only the girl so capriciously
forced upon him and upon whom he was so capriciously forced,
and it was honestly meant well towards her.  For, if he had found
her unhappy in the prospect of that marriage (through her heart
inclining to another man or for any other cause), he would
seriously have said: 'This is another of the old perverted uses of
the misery-making money.  I will let it go to my and my sister's
only protectors and friends.'  When the snare into which he fell so
outstripped his first intention as that he found himself placarded
by the police authorities upon the London walls for dead, he
confusedly accepted the aid that fell upon him, without
considering how firmly it must seem to fix the Boffins in their
accession to the fortune.  When he saw them, and knew them, and
even from his vantage-ground of inspection could find no flaw in
them, he asked himself, 'And shall I come to life to dispossess
such people as these?'  There was no good to set against the
putting of them to that hard proof.  He had heard from Bella's own
lips when he stood tapping at the door on that night of his taking
the lodgings, that the marriage would have been on her part
thoroughly mercenary.  He had since tried her, in his own
unknown person and supposed station, and she not only rejected
his advances but resented them.  Was it for him to have the shame
of buying her, or the meanness of punishing her?  Yet, by coming
to life and accepting the condition of the inheritance, he must do
the former; and by coming to life and rejecting it, he must do the
latter.

Another consequence that he had never foreshadowed, was the
implication of an innocent man in his supposed murder.  He would
obtain complete retraction from the accuser, and set the wrong
right; but clearly the wrong could never have been done if he had
never planned a deception.  Then, whatever inconvenience or
distress of mind the deception cost him, it was manful repentantly
to accept as among its consequences, and make no complaint.

Thus John Rokesmith in the morning, and it buried John Harmon
still many fathoms deeper than he had been buried in the night.

Going out earlier than he was accustomed to do, he encountered
the cherub at the door.  The cherub's way was for a certain space
his way, and they walked together.

It was impossible not to notice the change in the cherub's
appearance.  The cherub felt very conscious of it, and modestly
remarked:

'A present from my daughter Bella, Mr Rokesmith.'

The words gave the Secretary a stroke of pleasure, for he
remembered the fifty pounds, and he still loved the girl.  No doubt
it was very weak--it always IS very weak, some authorities hold--
but he loved the girl.

'I don't know whether you happen to have read many books of
African Travel, Mr Rokesmith?' said R. W.

'I have read several.'

'Well, you know, there's usually a King George, or a King Boy, or
a King Sambo, or a King Bill, or Bull, or Rum, or Junk, or
whatever name the sailors may have happened to give him.'

'Where?' asked Rokesmith.

'Anywhere.  Anywhere in Africa, I mean.  Pretty well everywhere,
I may say; for black kings are cheap--and I think'--said R. W.,
with an apologetic air, 'nasty'.

'I am much of your opinion, Mr Wilfer.  You were going to say--?'

'I was going to say, the king is generally dressed in a London hat
only, or a Manchester pair of braces, or one epaulette, or an
uniform coat with his legs in the sleeves, or something of that
kind.'

'Just so,' said the Secretary.

'In confidence, I assure you, Mr Rokesmith,' observed the cheerful
cherub, 'that when more of my family were at home and to be
provided for, I used to remind myself immensely of that king.
You have no idea, as a single man, of the difficulty I have had in
wearing more than one good article at a time.'

'I can easily believe it, Mr Wilfer.'

'I only mention it,' said R. W. in the warmth of his heart, 'as a
proof of the amiable, delicate, and considerate affection of my
daughter Bella.  If she had been a little spoilt, I couldn't have
thought so very much of it, under the circumstances.  But no, not
a bit.  And she is so very pretty!  I hope you agree with me in
finding her very pretty, Mr Rokesmith?'

'Certainly I do.  Every one must.'

'I hope so,' said the cherub.  'Indeed, I have no doubt of it.  This is
a great advancement for her in life, Mr Rokesmith.  A great
opening of her prospects?'

'Miss Wilfer could have no better friends than Mr and Mrs Boffin.'

'Impossible!' said the gratified cherub.  'Really I begin to think
things are very well as they are.  If Mr John Harmon had lived--'

'He is better dead,' said the Secretary.

'No, I won't go so far as to say that,' urged the cherub, a little
remonstrant against the very decisive and unpitying tone; 'but he
mightn't have suited Bella, or Bella mightn't have suited him, or
fifty things, whereas now I hope she can choose for herself.'

'Has she--as you place the confidence in me of speaking on the
subject, you will excuse my asking--has she--perhaps--chosen?'
faltered the Secretary.

'Oh dear no!' returned R. W.

'Young ladies sometimes,' Rokesmith hinted, 'choose without
mentioning their choice to their fathers.'

'Not in this case, Mr Rokesmith.  Between my daughter Bella and
me there is a regular league and covenant of confidence.  It was
ratified only the other day.  The ratification dates from--these,'
said the cherub, giving a little pull at the lappels of his coat and
the pockets of his trousers.  'Oh no, she has not chosen.  To be
sure, young George Sampson, in the days when Mr John Harmon--'

'Who I wish had never been born!' said the Secretary, with a
gloomy brow.

R. W. looked at him with surprise, as thinking he had contracted
an unaccountable spite against the poor deceased, and continued:
'In the days when Mr John Harmon was being sought out, young
George Sampson certainly was hovering about Bella, and Bella let
him hover.  But it never was seriously thought of, and it's still less
than ever to be thought of now.  For Bella is ambitious, Mr
Rokesmith, and I think I may predict will marry fortune.  This
time, you see, she will have the person and the property before
her together, and will be able to make her choice with her eyes
open.  This is my road.  I am very sorry to part company so soon.
Good morning, sir!'

The Secretary pursued his way, not very much elevated in spirits
by this conversation, and, arriving at the Boffin mansion, found
Betty Higden waiting for him.

'I should thank you kindly, sir,' said Betty, 'if I might make so bold
as have a word or two wi' you.'

She should have as many words as she liked, he told her; and took
her into his room, and made her sit down.

''Tis concerning Sloppy, sir,' said Betty.  'And that's how I come
here by myself.  Not wishing him to know what I'm a-going to say
to you, I got the start of him early and walked up.'

'You have wonderful energy,' returned Rokesmith.  'You are as
young as I am.'

Betty Higden gravely shook her head.  'I am strong for my time of
life, sir, but not young, thank the Lord!'

'Are you thankful for not being young?'

'Yes, sir.  If I was young, it would all have to be gone through
again, and the end would be a weary way off, don't you see?  But
never mind me; 'tis concerning Sloppy.'

'And what about him, Betty?'

''Tis just this, sir.  It can't be reasoned out of his head by any
powers of mine but what that he can do right by your kind lady
and gentleman and do his work for me, both together.  Now he
can't.  To give himself up to being put in the way of arning a good
living and getting on, he must give me up.  Well; he won't.'

'I respect him for it,' said Rokesmith.

'DO ye, sir?  I don't know but what I do myself.  Still that don't
make it right to let him have his way.  So as he won't give me up,
I'm a-going to give him up.'

'How, Betty?'

'I'm a-going to run away from him.'

With an astonished look at the indomitable old face and the bright
eyes, the Secretary repeated, 'Run away from him?'

'Yes, sir,' said Betty, with one nod.  And in the nod and in the firm
set of her mouth, there was a vigour of purpose not to be doubted.

'Come, come!' said the Secretary.  'We must talk about this.  Let
us take our time over it, and try to get at the true sense of the case
and the true course, by degrees.'

'Now, lookee here, by dear,' returned old Betty--'asking your
excuse for being so familiar, but being of a time of life a'most to
be your grandmother twice over.  Now, lookee, here.  'Tis a poor
living and a hard as is to be got out of this work that I'm a doing
now, and but for Sloppy I don't know as I should have held to it
this long.  But it did just keep us on, the two together.  Now that
I'm alone--with even Johnny gone--I'd far sooner be upon my feet
and tiring of myself out, than a sitting folding and folding by the
fire.  And I'll tell you why.  There's a deadness steals over me at
times, that the kind of life favours and I don't like.  Now, I seem to
have Johnny in my arms--now, his mother--now, his mother's
mother--now, I seem to be a child myself, a lying once again in the
arms of my own mother--then I get numbed, thought and sense,
till I start out of my seat, afeerd that I'm a growing like the poor
old people that they brick up in the Unions, as you may sometimes
see when they let 'em out of the four walls to have a warm in the
sun, crawling quite scared about the streets.  I was a nimble girl,
and have always been a active body, as I told your lady, first time
ever I see her good face.  I can still walk twenty mile if I am put to
it.  I'd far better be a walking than a getting numbed and dreary.
I'm a good fair knitter, and can make many little things to sell.
The loan from your lady and gentleman of twenty shillings to fit
out a basket with, would be a fortune for me.  Trudging round the
country and tiring of myself out, I shall keep the deadness off, and
get my own bread by my own labour.  And what more can I
want?'

'And this is your plan,' said the Secretary, 'for running away?'

'Show me a better!  My deary, show me a better!  Why, I know
very well,' said old Betty Higden, 'and you know very well, that
your lady and gentleman would set me up like a queen for the rest
of my life, if so be that we could make it right among us to have it
so.  But we can't make it right among us to have it so.  I've never
took charity yet, nor yet has any one belonging to me.  And it
would be forsaking of myself indeed, and forsaking of my children
dead and gone, and forsaking of their children dead and gone, to
set up a contradiction now at last.'

'It might come to be justifiable and unavoidable at last,' the
Secretary gently hinted, with a slight stress on the word.

'I hope it never will!  It ain't that I mean to give offence by being
anyways proud,' said the old creature simply, 'but that I want to be
of a piece like, and helpful of myself right through to my death.'

'And to be sure,' added the Secretary, as a comfort for her, 'Sloppy
will be eagerly looking forward to his opportunity of being to you
what you have been to him.'

'Trust him for that, sir!' said Betty, cheerfully.  'Though he had
need to be something quick about it, for I'm a getting to be an old
one.  But I'm a strong one too, and travel and weather never hurt
me yet!  Now, be so kind as speak for me to your lady and
gentleman, and tell 'em what I ask of their good friendliness to let
me do, and why I ask it.'

The Secretary felt that there was no gainsaying what was urged by
this brave old heroine, and he presently repaired to Mrs Boffin
and recommended her to let Betty Higden have her way, at all
events for the time.  'It would be far more satisfactory to your kind
heart, I know,' he said, 'to provide for her, but it may be a duty to
respect this independent spirit.'  Mrs Boffin was not proof against
the consideration set before her.  She and her husband had worked
too, and had brought their simple faith and honour clean out of
dustheaps.  If they owed a duty to Betty Higden, of a surety that
duty must be done.

'But, Betty,' said Mrs Boffin, when she accompanied John
Rokesmith back to his room, and shone upon her with the light of
her radiant face, 'granted all else, I think I wouldn't run away'.

''Twould come easier to Sloppy,' said Mrs Higden, shaking her
head.  ''Twould come easier to me too.  But 'tis as you please.'

'When would you go?'

'Now,' was the bright and ready answer.  'To-day, my deary, to-
morrow.  Bless ye, I am used to it.  I know many parts of the
country well.  When nothing else was to be done, I have worked
in many a market-garden afore now, and in many a hop-garden
too.'

'If I give my consent to your going, Betty--which Mr Rokesmith
thinks I ought to do--'

Betty thanked him with a grateful curtsey.

'--We must not lose sight of you.  We must not let you pass out of
our knowledge.  We must know all about you.'

'Yes, my deary, but not through letter-writing, because letter-
writing--indeed, writing of most sorts hadn't much come up for
such as me when I was young.  But I shall be to and fro.  No fear
of my missing a chance of giving myself a sight of your reviving
face.  Besides,' said Betty, with logical good faith, 'I shall have a
debt to pay off, by littles, and naturally that would bring me back,
if nothing else would.'

'MUST it be done?' asked Mrs Boffin, still reluctant, of the
Secretary.

'I think it must.'

After more discussion it was agreed that it should be done, and
Mrs Boffin summoned Bella to note down the little purchases that
were necessary to set Betty up in trade.  'Don't ye be timorous for
me, my dear,' said the stanch old heart, observant of Bella's face:
when I take my seat with my work, clean and busy and fresh, in a
country market-place, I shall turn a sixpence as sure as ever a
farmer's wife there.'

The Secretary took that opportunity of touching on the practical
question of Mr Sloppy's capabilities.  He would have made a
wonderful cabinet-maker, said Mrs Higden, 'if there had been the
money to put him to it.'  She had seen him handle tools that he had
borrowed to mend the mangle, or to knock a broken piece of
furniture together, in a surprising manner.  As to constructing toys
for the Minders, out of nothing, he had done that daily.  And once
as many as a dozen people had got together in the lane to see the
neatness with which he fitted the broken pieces of a foreign
monkey's musical instrument.  'That's well,' said the Secretary.  'It
will not be hard to find a trade for him.'

John Harmon being buried under mountains now, the Secretary
that very same day set himself to finish his affairs and have done
with him.  He drew up an ample declaration, to be signed by
Rogue Riderhood (knowing he could get his signature to it, by
making him another and much shorter evening call), and then
considered to whom should he give the document?  To Hexam's
son, or daughter?  Resolved speedily, to the daughter.  But it
would be safer to avoid seeing the daughter, because the son had
seen Julius Handford, and--he could not be too careful--there
might possibly be some comparison of notes between the son and
daughter, which would awaken slumbering suspicion, and lead to
consequences.  'I might even,' he reflected, 'be apprehended as
having been concerned in my own murder!'  Therefore, best to
send it to the daughter under cover by the post.  Pleasant
Riderhood had undertaken to find out where she lived, and it was
not necessary that it should be attended by a single word of
explanation.  So far, straight.

But, all that he knew of the daughter he derived from Mrs Boffin's
accounts of what she heard from Mr Lightwood, who seemed to
have a reputation for his manner of relating a story, and to have
made this story quite his own.  It interested him, and he would like
to have the means of knowing more--as, for instance, that she
received the exonerating paper, and that it satisfied her--by
opening some channel altogether independent of Lightwood: who
likewise had seen Julius Handford, who had publicly advertised
for Julius Handford, and whom of all men he, the Secretary, most
avoided.  'But with whom the common course of things might
bring me in a moment face to face, any day in the week or any
hour in the day.'

Now, to cast about for some likely means of opening such a
channel.  The boy, Hexam, was training for and with a
schoolmaster.  The Secretary knew it, because his sister's share in
that disposal of him seemed to be the best part of Lightwood's
account of the family.  This young fellow, Sloppy, stood in need of
some instruction.  If he, the Secretary, engaged that schoolmaster
to impart it to him, the channel might be opened.  The next point
was, did Mrs Boffin know the schoolmaster's name?  No, but she
knew where the school was.  Quite enough.  Promptly the
Secretary wrote to the master of that school, and that very
evening Bradley Headstone answered in person.

The Secretary stated to the schoolmaster how the object was, to
send to him for certain occasional evening instruction, a youth
whom Mr and Mrs Boffin wished to help to an industrious and
useful place in life.  The schoolmaster was willing to undertake the
charge of such a pupil.  The Secretary inquired on what terms?
The schoolmaster stated on what terms.  Agreed and disposed of.

'May I ask, sir,' said Bradley Headstone, 'to whose good opinion I
owe a recommendation to you?'

'You should know that I am not the principal here.  I am Mr
Boffin's Secretary.  Mr Boffin is a gentleman who inherited a
property of which you may have heard some public mention; the
Harmon property.'

'Mr Harmon,' said Bradley: who would have been a great deal
more at a loss than he was, if he had known to whom he spoke:
'was murdered and found in the river.'

'Was murdered and found in the river.'

'It was not--'

'No,' interposed the Secretary, smiling, 'it was not he who
recommended you.  Mr Boffin heard of you through a certain Mr
Lightwood.  I think you know Mr Lightwood, or know of him?'

'I know as much of him as I wish to know, sir.  I have no
acquaintance with Mr Lightwood, and I desire none.  I have no
objection to Mr Lightwood, but I have a particular objection to
some of Mr Lightwood's friends--in short, to one of Mr
Lightwood's friends.  His great friend.'

He could hardly get the words out, even then and there, so fierce
did he grow (though keeping himself down with infinite pains of
repression), when the careless and contemptuous bearing of
Eugene Wrayburn rose before his mind.

The Secretary saw there was a strong feeling here on some sore
point, and he would have made a diversion from it, but for
Bradley's holding to it in his cumbersome way.

'I have no objection to mention the friend by name,' he said,
doggedly.  'The person I object to, is Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

The Secretary remembered him.  In his disturbed recollection of
that night when he was striving against the drugged drink, there
was but a dim image of Eugene's person; but he remembered his
name, and his manner of speaking, and how he had gone with
them to view the body, and where he had stood, and what he had
said.

'Pray, Mr Headstone, what is the name,' he asked, again trying to
make a diversion, 'of young Hexam's sister?'

'Her name is Lizzie,' said the schoolmaster, with a strong
contraction of his whole face.

'She is a young woman of a remarkable character; is she not?'

'She is sufficiently remarkable to be very superior to Mr Eugene
Wrayburn--though an ordinary person might be that,' said the
schoolmaster; 'and I hope you will not think it impertinent in me,
sir, to ask why you put the two names together?'

'By mere accident,' returned the Secretary.  'Observing that Mr
Wrayburn was a disagreeable subject with you, I tried to get away
from it: though not very successfully, it would appear.'

'Do you know Mr Wrayburn, sir?'

'No.'

'Then perhaps the names cannot be put together on the authority
of any representation of his?'

'Certainly not.'

'I took the liberty to ask,' said Bradley, after casting his eyes on
the ground, 'because he is capable of making any representation,
in the swaggering levity of his insolence.  I--I hope you will not
misunderstand me, sir.  I--I am much interested in this brother and
sister, and the subject awakens very strong feelings within me.
Very, very, strong feelings.'  With a shaking hand, Bradley took
out his handkerchief and wiped his brow.

The Secretary thought, as he glanced at the schoolmaster's face,
that he had opened a channel here indeed, and that it was an
unexpectedly dark and deep and stormy one, and difficult to
sound.  All at once, in the midst of his turbulent emotions, Bradley
stopped and seemed to challenge his look.  Much as though he
suddenly asked him, 'What do you see in me?'

'The brother, young Hexam, was your real recommendation here,'
said the Secretary, quietly going back to the point; 'Mr and Mrs
Boffin happening to know, through Mr Lightwood, that he was
your pupil.  Anything that I ask respecting the brother and sister,
or either of them, I ask for myself out of my own interest in the
subject, and not in my official character, or on Mr Boffin's behalf.
How I come to be interested, I need not explain.  You know the
father's connection with the discovery of Mr Harmon's body.'

'Sir,' replied Bradley, very restlessly indeed, 'I know all the
circumstances of that case.'

'Pray tell me, Mr Headstone,' said the Secretary.  'Does the sister
suffer under any stigma because of the impossible accusation--
groundless would be a better word--that was made against the
father, and substantially withdrawn?'

'No, sir,' returned Bradley, with a kind of anger.

'I am very glad to hear it.'

'The sister,' said Bradley, separating his words over-carefully, and
speaking as if he were repeating them from a book, 'suffers under
no reproach that repels a man of unimpeachable character who
had made for himself every step of his way in life, from placing
her in his own station.  I will not say, raising her to his own
station; I say, placing her in it.  The sister labours under no
reproach, unless she should unfortunately make it for herself.
When such a man is not deterred from regarding her as his equal,
and when he has convinced himself that there is no blemish on
her, I think the fact must be taken to be pretty expressive.'

'And there is such a man?' said the Secretary.

Bradley Headstone knotted his brows, and squared his large lower
jaw, and fixed his eyes on the ground with an air of determination
that seemed unnecessary to the occasion, as he replied: 'And there
is such a man.'

The Secretary had no reason or excuse for prolonging the
conversation, and it ended here.  Within three hours the oakum-
headed apparition once more dived into the Leaving Shop, and
that night Rogue Riderhood's recantation lay in the post office,
addressed under cover to Lizzie Hexam at her right address.

All these proceedings occupied John Rokesmith so much, that it
was not until the following day that he saw Bella again.  It seemed
then to be tacitly understood between them that they were to be
as distantly easy as they could, without attracting the attention of
Mr and Mrs Boffin to any marked change in their manner.  The
fitting out of old Betty Higden was favourable to this, as keeping
Bella engaged and interested, and as occupying the general
attention.

'I think,' said Rokesmith, when they all stood about her, while she
packed her tidy basket--except Bella, who was busily helping on
her knees at the chair on which it stood; 'that at least you might
keep a letter in your pocket, Mrs Higden, which I would write for
you and date from here, merely stating, in the names of Mr and
Mrs Boffin, that they are your friends;--I won't say patrons,
because they wouldn't like it.'

'No, no, no,' said Mr Boffin; 'no patronizing!  Let's keep out of
THAT, whatever we come to.'

'There's more than enough of that about, without us; ain't there,
Noddy?' said Mrs Boffin.

'I believe you, old lady!' returned the Golden Dustman.
'Overmuch indeed!'

'But people sometimes like to be patronized; don't they, sir?' asked
Bella, looking up.

'I don't.  And if THEY do, my dear, they ought to learn better,'
said Mr Boffin.  'Patrons and Patronesses, and Vice-Patrons and
Vice-Patronesses, and Deceased Patrons and Deceased
Patronesses, and Ex-Vice-Patrons and Ex-Vice-Patronesses, what
does it all mean in the books of the Charities that come pouring in
on Rokesmith as he sits among 'em pretty well up to his neck!  If
Mr Tom Noakes gives his five shillings ain't he a Patron, and if
Mrs Jack Styles gives her five shillings ain't she a Patroness?
What the deuce is it all about?  If it ain't stark staring impudence,
what do you call it?'

'Don't be warm, Noddy,' Mrs Boffin urged.

'Warm!' cried Mr Boffin.  'It's enough to make a man smoking hot.
I can't go anywhere without being Patronized.  I don't want to be
Patronized.  If I buy a ticket for a Flower Show, or a Music Show,
or any sort of Show, and pay pretty heavy for it, why am I to be
Patroned and Patronessed as if the Patrons and Patronesses
treated me?  If there's a good thing to be done, can't it be done on
its own merits?  If there's a bad thing to be done, can it ever be
Patroned and Patronessed right?  Yet when a new Institution's
going to be built, it seems to me that the bricks and mortar ain't
made of half so much consequence as the Patrons and
Patronesses; no, nor yet the objects.  I wish somebody would tell
me whether other countries get Patronized to anything like the
extent of this one!  And as to the Patrons and Patronesses
themselves, I wonder they're not ashamed of themselves.  They
ain't Pills, or Hair-Washes, or Invigorating Nervous Essences, to
be puffed in that way!'

Having delivered himself of these remarks, Mr Boffin took a trot,
according to his usual custom, and trotted back to the spot from
which he had started.

'As to the letter, Rokesmith,' said Mr Boffin, 'you're as right as a
trivet.  Give her the letter, make her take the letter, put it in her
pocket by violence.  She might fall sick.  You know you might fall
sick,' said Mr Boffin.  'Don't deny it, Mrs Higden, in your
obstinacy; you know you might.'

Old Betty laughed, and said that she would take the letter and be
thankful.

'That's right!' said Mr Boffin.  'Come!  That's sensible.  And don't
be thankful to us (for we never thought of it), but to Mr
Rokesmith.'

The letter was written, and read to her, and given to her.

'Now, how do you feel?' said Mr Boffin.  'Do you like it?'

'The letter, sir?' said Betty.  'Ay, it's a beautiful letter!'

'No, no, no; not the letter,' said Mr Boffin; 'the idea.  Are you sure
you're strong enough to carry out the idea?'

'I shall be stronger, and keep the deadness off better, this way,
than any way left open to me, sir.'

'Don't say than any way left open, you know,' urged Mr Boffin;
'because there are ways without end.  A housekeeper would be
acceptable over yonder at the Bower, for instance.  Wouldn't you
like to see the Bower, and know a retired literary man of the name
of Wegg that lives there--WITH a wooden leg?'

Old Betty was proof even against this temptation, and fell to
adjusting her black bonnet and shawl.

'I wouldn't let you go, now it comes to this, after all,' said Mr
Boffin, 'if I didn't hope that it may make a man and a workman of
Sloppy, in as short a time as ever a man and workman was made
yet.  Why, what have you got there, Betty?  Not a doll?'

It was the man in the Guards who had been on duty over Johnny's
bed.  The solitary old woman showed what it was, and put it up
quietly in her dress.  Then, she gratefully took leave of Mrs
Boffin, and of Mr Boffin, and of Rokesmith, and then put her old
withered arms round Bella's young and blooming neck, and said,
repeating Johnny's words: 'A kiss for the boofer lady.'

The Secretary looked on from a doorway at the boofer lady thus
encircled, and still looked on at the boofer lady standing alone
there, when the determined old figure with its steady bright eyes
was trudging through the streets, away from paralysis and
pauperism.



Chapter 15

THE WHOLE CASE SO FAR


Bradley Headstone held fast by that other interview he was to
have with Lizzie Hexam.  In stipulating for it, he had been
impelled by a feeling little short of desperation, and the feeling
abided by him.  It was very soon after his interview with the
Secretary, that he and Charley Hexam set out one leaden evening,
not unnoticed by Miss Peecher, to have this desperate interview
accomplished.

'That dolls' dressmaker,' said Bradley, 'is favourable neither to me
nor to you, Hexam.'

'A pert crooked little chit, Mr Headstone!  I knew she would put
herself in the way, if she could, and would be sure to strike in with
something impertinent.  It was on that account that I proposed our
going to the City to-night and meeting my sister.'

'So I supposed,' said Bradley, getting his gloves on his nervous
hands as he walked.  'So I supposed.'

'Nobody but my sister,' pursued Charley, 'would have found out
such an extraordinary companion.  She has done it in a ridiculous
fancy of giving herself up to another.  She told me so, that night
when we went there.'

'Why should she give herself up to the dressmaker?' asked
Bradley.

'Oh!' said the boy, colouring.  'One of her romantic ideas!  I tried
to convince her so, but I didn't succeed.  However, what we have
got to do, is, to succeed to-night, Mr Headstone, and then all the
rest follows.'

'You are still sanguine, Hexam.'

'Certainly I am, sir.  Why, we have everything on our side.'

'Except your sister, perhaps,' thought Bradley.  But he only
gloomily thought it, and said nothing.

'Everything on our side,' repeated the boy with boyish confidence.
'Respectability, an excellent connexion for me, common sense,
everything!'

'To be sure, your sister has always shown herself a devoted sister,'
said Bradley, willing to sustain himself on even that low ground of
hope.

'Naturally, Mr Headstone, I have a good deal of influence with
her.  And now that you have honoured me with your confidence
and spoken to me first, I say again, we have everything on our
side.'

And Bradley thought again, 'Except your sister, perhaps.'

A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful
aspect.  The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death
about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of
mourning.  The towers and steeples of the many house-
encompassed churches, dark and dingy as the sky that seems
descending on them, are no relief to the general gloom; a sun-dial
on a church-wall has the look, in its useless black shade, of having
failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment for ever;
melancholy waifs and strays of housekeepers and porter sweep
melancholy waifs and strays of papers and pins into the kennels,
and other more melancholy waifs and strays explore them,
searching and stooping and poking for anything to sell.  The set of
humanity outward from the City is as a set of prisoners departing
from gaol, and dismal Newgate seems quite as fit a stronghold for
the mighty Lord Mayor as his own state-dwelling.

On such an evening, when the city grit gets into the hair and eyes
and skin, and when the fallen leaves of the few unhappy city trees
grind down in corners under wheels of wind, the schoolmaster and
the pupil emerged upon the Leadenhall Street region, spying
eastward for Lizzie.  Being something too soon in their arrival,
they lurked at a corner, waiting for her to appear.  The best-
looking among us will not look very well, lurking at a corner, and
Bradley came out of that disadvantage very poorly indeed.

'Here she comes, Mr Headstone!  Let us go forward and meet her.'

As they advanced, she saw them coming, and seemed rather
troubled.  But she greeted her brother with the usual warmth, and
touched the extended hand of Bradley.

'Why, where are you going, Charley, dear?' she asked him then.

'Nowhere.  We came on purpose to meet you.'

'To meet me, Charley?'

'Yes.  We are going to walk with you.  But don't let us take the
great leading streets where every one walks, and we can't hear
ourselves speak.  Let us go by the quiet backways.  Here's a large
paved court by this church, and quiet, too.  Let us go up here.'

'But it's not in the way, Charley.'

'Yes it is,' said the boy, petulantly.  'It's in my way, and my way is
yours.'

She had not released his hand, and, still holding it, looked at him
with a kind of appeal.  He avoided her eyes, under pretence of
saying, 'Come along, Mr Headstone.'  Bradley walked at his side--
not at hers--and the brother and sister walked hand in hand.  The
court brought them to a churchyard; a paved square court, with a
raised bank of earth about breast high, in the middle, enclosed by
iron rails.  Here, conveniently and healthfully elevated above the
level of the living, were the dead, and the tombstones; some of the
latter droopingly inclined from the perpendicular, as if they were
ashamed of the lies they told.

They paced the whole of this place once, in a constrained and
uncomfortable manner, when the boy stopped and said:

'Lizzie, Mr Headstone has something to say to you.  I don't wish to
be an interruption either to him or to you, and so I'll go and take a
little stroll and come back.  I know in a general way what Mr
Headstone intends to say, and I very highly approve of it, as I
hope--and indeed I do not doubt--you will.  I needn't tell you,
Lizzie, that I am under great obligations to Mr Headstone, and that
I am very anxious for Mr Headstone to succeed in all he
undertakes.  As I hope--and as, indeed, I don't doubt--you must
be.'

'Charley,' returned his sister, detaining his hand as he withdrew it,
'I think you had better stay.  I think Mr Headstone had better not
say what he thinks of saying.'

'Why, how do you know what it is?' returned the boy.

'Perhaps I don't, but--'

'Perhaps you don't?  No, Liz, I should think not.  If you knew what
it was, you would give me a very different answer.  There; let go;
be sensible.  I wonder you don't remember that Mr Headstone is
looking on.'

She allowed him to separate himself from her, and he, after
saying, 'Now Liz, be a rational girl and a good sister,' walked
away.  She remained standing alone with Bradley Headstone, and
it was not until she raised her eyes, that he spoke.

'I said,' he began, 'when I saw you last, that there was something
unexplained, which might perhaps influence you.  I have come
this evening to explain it.  I hope you will not judge of me by my
hesitating manner when I speak to you.  You see me at my
greatest disadvantage.  It is most unfortunate for me that I wish
you to see me at my best, and that I know you see me at my
worst.'

She moved slowly on when he paused, and he moved slowly on
beside her.

'It seems egotistical to begin by saying so much about myself,' he
resumed, 'but whatever I say to you seems, even in my own ears,
below what I want to say, and different from what I want to say.  I
can't help it.  So it is.  You are the ruin of me.'

She started at the passionate sound of the last words, and at the
passionate action of his hands, with which they were
accompanied.

'Yes! you are the ruin--the ruin--the ruin--of me.  I have no
resources in myself, I have no confidence in myself, I have no
government of myself when you are near me or in my thoughts.
And you are always in my thoughts now.  I have never been quit
of you since I first saw you.  Oh, that was a wretched day for me!
That was a wretched, miserable day!'

A touch of pity for him mingled with her dislike of him, and she
said: 'Mr Headstone, I am grieved to have done you any harm, but
I have never meant it.'

'There!' he cried, despairingly.  'Now, I seem to have reproached
you, instead of revealing to you the state of my own mind!  Bear
with me.  I am always wrong when you are in question.  It is my
doom.'

Struggling with himself, and by times looking up at the deserted
windows of the houses as if there could be anything written in
their grimy panes that would help him, he paced the whole
pavement at her side, before he spoke again.

'I must try to give expression to what is in my mind; it shall and
must be spoken.  Though you see me so confounded--though you
strike me so helpless--I ask you to believe that there are many
people who think well of me; that there are some people who
highly esteem me; that I have in my way won a Station which is
considered worth winning.'

'Surely, Mr Headstone, I do believe it.  Surely I have always
known it from Charley.'

'I ask you to believe that if I were to offer my home such as it is,
my station such as it is, my affections such as they are, to any one
of the best considered, and best qualified, and most distinguished,
among the young women engaged in my calling, they would
probably be accepted.  Even readily accepted.'

'I do not doubt it,' said Lizzie, with her eyes upon the ground.

'I have sometimes had it in my thoughts to make that offer and to
settle down as many men of my class do: I on the one side of a
school, my wife on the other, both of us interested in the same
work.'

'Why have you not done so?' asked Lizzie Hexam.  'Why do you
not do so?'

'Far better that I never did!  The only one grain of comfort I have
had these many weeks,' he said, always speaking passionately,
and, when most emphatic, repeating that former action of his
hands, which was like flinging his heart's blood down before her in
drops upon the pavement-stones; 'the only one grain of comfort I
have had these many weeks is, that I never did.  For if I had, and
if the same spell had come upon me for my ruin, I know I should
have broken that tie asunder as if it had been thread.'

She glanced at him with a glance of fear, and a shrinking gesture.
He answered, as if she had spoken.

'No!  It would not have been voluntary on my part, any more than
it is voluntary in me to be here now.  You draw me to you.  If I
were shut up in a strong prison, you would draw me out.  I should
break through the wall to come to you.  If I were lying on a sick
bed, you would draw me up--to stagger to your feet and fall there.'

The wild energy of the man, now quite let loose, was absolutely
terrible.  He stopped and laid his hand upon a piece of the coping
of the burial-ground enclosure, as if he would have dislodged the
stone.

'No man knows till the time comes, what depths are within him.
To some men it never comes; let them rest and be thankful!  To
me, you brought it; on me, you forced it; and the bottom of this
raging sea,' striking himself upon the breast, 'has been heaved up
ever since.'

'Mr Headstone, I have heard enough.  Let me stop you here.  It
will be better for you and better for me.  Let us find my brother.'

'Not yet.  It shall and must be spoken.  I have been in torments
ever since I stopped short of it before.  You are alarmed.  It is
another of my miseries that I cannot speak to you or speak of you
without stumbling at every syllable, unless I let the check go
altogether and run mad.  Here is a man lighting the lamps.  He will
be gone directly.  I entreat of you let us walk round this place
again.  You have no reason to look alarmed; I can restrain myself,
and I will.'

She yielded to the entreaty--how could she do otherwise!--and
they paced the stones in silence.  One by one the lights leaped up
making the cold grey church tower more remote, and they were
alone again.  He said no more until they had regained the spot
where he had broken off; there, he again stood still, and again
grasped the stone.  In saying what he said then, he never looked at
her; but looked at it and wrenched at it.

'You know what I am going to say.  I love you.  What other men
may mean when they use that expression, I cannot tell; what I
mean is, that I am under the influence of some tremendous
attraction which I have resisted in vain, and which overmasters
me.  You could draw me to fire, you could draw me to water, you
could draw me to the gallows, you could draw me to any death,
you could draw me to anything I have most avoided, you could
draw me to any exposure and disgrace.  This and the confusion of
my thoughts, so that I am fit for nothing, is what I mean by your
being the ruin of me.  But if you would return a favourable answer
to my offer of myself in marriage, you could draw me to any
good--every good--with equal force.  My circumstances are quite
easy, and you would want for nothing.  My reputation stands quite
high, and would be a shield for yours.  If you saw me at my work,
able to do it well and respected in it, you might even come to take
a sort of pride in me;--I would try hard that you should.  Whatever
considerations I may have thought of against this offer, I have
conquered, and I make it with all my heart.  Your brother favours
me to the utmost, and it is likely that we might live and work
together; anyhow, it is certain that he would have my best
influence and support.  I don't know what I could say more if I
tried.  I might only weaken what is ill enough said as it is.  I only
add that if it is any claim on you to be in earnest, I am in thorough
earnest, dreadful earnest.'

The powdered mortar from under the stone at which he wrenched,
rattled on the pavement to confirm his words.

'Mr Headstone--'

'Stop!  I implore you, before you answer me, to walk round this
place once more.  It will give you a minute's time to think, and me
a minute's time to get some fortitude together.'

Again she yielded to the entreaty, and again they came back to the
same place, and again he worked at the stone.

'Is it,' he said, with his attention apparently engrossed by it, 'yes, or
no?'

'Mr Headstone, I thank you sincerely, I thank you gratefully, and
hope you may find a worthy wife before long and be very happy.
But it is no.'

'Is no short time necessary for reflection; no weeks or days?' he
asked, in the same half-suffocated way.

'None whatever.'

'Are you quite decided, and is there no chance of any change in
my favour?'

'I am quite decided, Mr Headstone, and I am bound to answer I
am certain there is none.'

'Then,' said he, suddenly changing his tone and turning to her, and
bringing his clenched hand down upon the stone with a force that
laid the knuckles raw and bleeding; 'then I hope that I may never
kill him!'

The dark look of hatred and revenge with which the words broke
from his livid lips, and with which he stood holding out his
smeared hand as if it held some weapon and had just struck a
mortal blow, made her so afraid of him that she turned to run
away.  But he caught her by the arm.

'Mr Headstone, let me go.  Mr Headstone, I must call for help!'

'It is I who should call for help,' he said; 'you don't know yet how
much I need it.'

The working of his face as she shrank from it, glancing round for
her brother and uncertain what to do, might have extorted a cry
from her in another instant; but all at once he sternly stopped it
and fixed it, as if Death itself had done so.

'There!  You see I have recovered myself.  Hear me out.'

With much of the dignity of courage, as she recalled her self-
reliant life and her right to be free from accountability to this man,
she released her arm from his grasp and stood looking full at him.
She had never been so handsome, in his eyes.  A shade came over
them while he looked back at her, as if she drew the very light out
of them to herself.

'This time, at least, I will leave nothing unsaid,' he went on, folding
his hands before him, clearly to prevent his being betrayed into
any impetuous gesture; 'this last time at least I will not be tortured
with after-thoughts of a lost opportunity.  Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

'Was it of him you spoke in your ungovernable rage and violence?'
Lizzie Hexam demanded with spirit.

He bit his lip, and looked at her, and said never a word.

'Was it Mr Wrayburn that you threatened?'

He bit his lip again, and looked at her, and said never a word.

'You asked me to hear you out, and you will not speak.  Let me
find my brother.'

'Stay! I threatened no one.'

Her look dropped for an instant to his bleeding hand.  He lifted it
to his mouth, wiped it on his sleeve, and again folded it over the
other.  'Mr Eugene Wrayburn,' he repeated.

'Why do you mention that name again and again, Mr Headstone?'

'Because it is the text of the little I have left to say.  Observe!
There are no threats in it.  If I utter a threat, stop me, and fasten it
upon me.  Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

A worse threat than was conveyed in his manner of uttering the
name, could hardly have escaped him.

'He haunts you.  You accept favours from him.  You are willing
enough to listen to HIM.  I know it, as well as he does.'

'Mr Wrayburn has been considerate and good to me, sir,' said
Lizzie, proudly, 'in connexion with the death and with the memory
of my poor father.'

'No doubt. He is of course a very considerate and a very good
man, Mr Eugene Wrayburn.'

'He is nothing to you, I think,' said Lizzie, with an indignation she
could not repress.

'Oh yes, he is.  There you mistake.  He is much to me.'

'What can he be to you?'

'He can be a rival to me among other things,' said Bradley.

'Mr Headstone,' returned Lizzie, with a burning face, 'it is
cowardly in you to speak to me in this way.  But it makes me able
to tell you that I do not like you, and that I never have liked you
from the first, and that no other living creature has anything to do
with the effect you have produced upon me for yourself.'

His head bent for a moment, as if under a weight, and he then
looked up again, moistening his lips.  'I was going on with the little
I had left to say.  I knew all this about Mr Eugene Wrayburn, all
the while you were drawing me to you.  I strove against the
knowledge, but quite in vain.  It made no difference in me.  With
Mr Eugene Wrayburn in my mind, I went on.  With Mr Eugene
Wrayburn in my mind, I spoke to you just now.  With Mr Eugene
Wrayburn in my mind, I have been set aside and I have been cast
out.'

'If you give those names to my thanking you for your proposal and
declining it, is it my fault, Mr Headstone?' said Lizzie,
compassionating the bitter struggle he could not conceal, almost as
much as she was repelled and alarmed by it.

'I am not complaining,' he returned, 'I am only stating the case.  I
had to wrestle with my self-respect when I submitted to be drawn
to you in spite of Mr Wrayburn.  You may imagine how low my
self-respect lies now.'

She was hurt and angry; but repressed herself in consideration of
his suffering, and of his being her brother's friend.

'And it lies under his feet,' said Bradley, unfolding his hands in
spite of himself, and fiercely motioning with them both towards
the stones of the pavement.  'Remember that!  It lies under that
fellow's feet, and he treads upon it and exults above it.'

'He does not!' said Lizzie.

'He does!' said Bradley.  'I have stood before him face to face, and
he crushed me down in the dirt of his contempt, and walked over
me.  Why?  Because he knew with triumph what was in store for
me to-night.'

'O, Mr Headstone, you talk quite wildly.'

'Quite collectedly.  I know what I say too well.  Now I have said
all.  I have used no threat, remember; I have done no more than
show you how the case stands;--how the case stands, so far.'

At this moment her brother sauntered into view close by.  She
darted to him, and caught him by the hand.  Bradley followed, and
laid his heavy hand on the boy's opposite shoulder.

'Charley Hexam, I am going home.  I must walk home by myself
to-night, and get shut up in my room without being spoken to.
Give me half an hour's start, and let me be, till you find me at my
work in the morning.  I shall be at my work in the morning just as
usual.'

Clasping his hands, he uttered a short unearthly broken cry, and
went his way.  The brother and sister were left looking at one
another near a lamp in the solitary churchyard, and the boy's face
clouded and darkened, as he said in a rough tone: 'What is the
meaning of this?  What have you done to my best friend?  Out
with the truth!'

'Charley!' said his sister.  'Speak a little more considerately!'

'I am not in the humour for consideration, or for nonsense of any
sort,' replied the boy.  'What have you been doing?  Why has Mr
Headstone gone from us in that way?'

'He asked me--you know he asked me--to be his wife, Charley.'

'Well?' said the boy, impatiently.

'And I was obliged to tell him that I could not be his wife.'

'You were obliged to tell him,' repeated the boy angrily, between
his teeth, and rudely pushing her away.  'You were obliged to tell
him!  Do you know that he is worth fifty of you?'

'It may easily be so, Charley, but I cannot marry him.'

'You mean that you are conscious that you can't appreciate him,
and don't deserve him, I suppose?'

'I mean that I do not like him, Charley, and that I will never marry
him.'

'Upon my soul,' exclaimed the boy, 'you are a nice picture of a
sister!  Upon my soul, you are a pretty piece of disinterestedness!
And so all my endeavours to cancel the past and to raise myself in
the world, and to raise you with me, are to be beaten down by
YOUR low whims; are they?'

'I will not reproach you, Charley.'

'Hear her!' exclaimed the boy, looking round at the darkness.  'She
won't reproach me!  She does her best to destroy my fortunes and
her own, and she won't reproach me!  Why, you'll tell me, next,
that you won't reproach Mr Headstone for coming out of the
sphere to which he is an ornament, and putting himself at YOUR
feet, to be rejected by YOU!'

'No, Charley; I will only tell you, as I told himself, that I thank him
for doing so, that I am sorry he did so, and that I hope he will do
much better, and be happy.'

Some touch of compunction smote the boy's hardening heart as he
looked upon her, his patient little nurse in infancy, his patient
friend, adviser, and reclaimer in boyhood, the self-forgetting sister
who had done everything for him.  His tone relented, and he drew
her arm through his.

'Now, come, Liz; don't let us quarrel: let us be reasonable and talk
this over like brother and sister.  Will you listen to me?'

'Oh, Charley!' she replied through her starting tears; 'do I not listen
to you, and hear many hard things!'

'Then I am sorry.  There, Liz!  I am unfeignedly sorry.  Only you
do put me out so.  Now see.  Mr Headstone is perfectly devoted to
you.  He has told me in the strongest manner that he has never
been his old self for one single minute since I first brought him to
see you.  Miss Peecher, our schoolmistress--pretty and young, and
all that--is known to be very much attached to him, and he won't
so much as look at her or hear of her.  Now, his devotion to you
must be a disinterested one; mustn't it?  If he married Miss
Peecher, he would be a great deal better off in all worldly
respects, than in marrying you.  Well then; he has nothing to get
by it, has he?'

'Nothing, Heaven knows!'

'Very well then,' said the boy; 'that's something in his favour, and a
great thing.  Then I come in.  Mr Headstone has always got me on,
and he has a good deal in his power, and of course if he was my
brother-in-law he wouldn't get me on less, but would get me on
more.  Mr Headstone comes and confides in me, in a very delicate
way, and says, "I hope my marrying your sister would be
agreeable to you, Hexam, and useful to you?"  I say, "There's
nothing in the world, Mr Headstone, that I could be better pleased
with."  Mr Headstone says, "Then I may rely upon your intimate
knowledge of me for your good word with your sister, Hexam?"
And I say, "Certainly, Mr Headstone, and naturally I have a good
deal of influence with her."  So I have; haven't I, Liz?'

'Yes, Charley.'

'Well said!  Now, you see, we begin to get on, the moment we
begin to be really talking it over, like brother and sister.  Very
well.  Then YOU come in.  As Mr Headstone's wife you would be
occupying a most respectable station, and you would be holding a
far better place in society than you hold now, and you would at
length get quit of the river-side and the old disagreeables
belonging to it, and you would be rid for good of dolls'
dressmakers and their drunken fathers, and the like of that.  Not
that I want to disparage Miss Jenny Wren: I dare say she is all
very well in her way; but her way is not your way as Mr
Headstone's wife.  Now, you see, Liz, on all three accounts--on
Mr Headstone's, on mine, on yours--nothing could be better or
more desirable.'

They were walking slowly as the boy spoke, and here he stood
still, to see what effect he had made.  His sister's eyes were fixed
upon him; but as they showed no yielding, and as she remained
silent, he walked her on again.  There was some discomfiture in
his tone as he resumed, though he tried to conceal it.

'Having so much influence with you, Liz, as I have, perhaps I
should have done better to have had a little chat with you in the
first instance, before Mr Headstone spoke for himself.  But really
all this in his favour seemed so plain and undeniable, and I knew
you to have always been so reasonable and sensible, that I didn't
consider it worth while.  Very likely that was a mistake of mine.
However, it's soon set right.  All that need be done to set it right, is
for you to tell me at once that I may go home and tell Mr
Headstone that what has taken place is not final, and that it will all
come round by-and-by.'

He stopped again.  The pale face looked anxiously and lovingly at
him, but she shook her head.

'Can't you speak?' said the boy sharply.

'I am very unwilling to speak, Charley.  If I must, I must.  I cannot
authorize you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone: I cannot
allow you to say any such thing to Mr Headstone.  Nothing
remains to be said to him from me, after what I have said for good
and all, to-night.'

'And this girl,' cried the boy, contemptuously throwing her off
again, 'calls herself a sister!'

'Charley, dear, that is the second time that you have almost struck
me.  Don't be hurt by my words.  I don't mean--Heaven forbid!--
that you intended it; but you hardly know with what a sudden
swing you removed yourself from me.'

'However!' said the boy, taking no heed of the remonstrance, and
pursuing his own mortified disappointment, 'I know what this
means, and you shall not disgrace me.'

'It means what I have told you, Charley, and nothing more.'

'That's not true,' said the boy in a violent tone, 'and you know it's
not.  It means your precious Mr Wrayburn; that's what it means.'

'Charley!  If you remember any old days of ours together,
forbear!'

'But you shall not disgrace me,' doggedly pursued the boy.  'I am
determined that after I have climbed up out of the mire, you shall
not pull me down.  You can't disgrace me if I have nothing to do
with you, and I will have nothing to do with you for the future.'

'Charley!  On many a night like this, and many a worse night, I
have sat on the stones of the street, hushing you in my arms.
Unsay those words without even saying you are sorry for them,
and my arms are open to you still, and so is my heart.'

'I'll not unsay them.  I'll say them again.  You are an inveterately
bad girl, and a false sister, and I have done with you.  For ever, I
have done with you!'

He threw up his ungrateful and ungracious hand as if it set up a
barrier between them, and flung himself upon his heel and left her.
She remained impassive on the same spot, silent and motionless,
until the striking of the church clock roused her, and she turned
away.  But then, with the breaking up of her immobility came the
breaking up of the waters that the cold heart of the selfish boy had
frozen.  And 'O that I were lying here with the dead!' and 'O
Charley, Charley, that this should be the end of our pictures in the
fire!' were all the words she said, as she laid her face in her hands
on the stone coping.

A figure passed by, and passed on, but stopped and looked round
at her.  It was the figure of an old man with a bowed head,
wearing a large brimmed low-crowned hat, and a long-skirted
coat.  After hesitating a little, the figure turned back, and,
advancing with an air of gentleness and compassion, said:

'Pardon me, young woman, for speaking to you, but you are under
some distress of mind.  I cannot pass upon my way and leave you
weeping here alone, as if there was nothing in the place.  Can I
help you?  Can I do anything to give you comfort?'

She raised her head at the sound of these kind words, and
answered gladly, 'O, Mr Riah, is it you?'

'My daughter,' said the old man, 'I stand amazed!  I spoke as to a
stranger.  Take my arm, take my arm.  What grieves you?  Who
has done this?  Poor girl, poor girl!'

'My brother has quarrelled with me,' sobbed Lizzie, 'and
renounced me.'

'He is a thankless dog,' said the Jew, angrily.  'Let him go.'  Shake
the dust from thy feet and let him go.  Come, daughter!  Come
home with me--it is but across the road--and take a little time to
recover your peace and to make your eyes seemly, and then I will
bear you company through the streets.  For it is past your usual
time, and will soon be late, and the way is long, and there is much
company out of doors to-night.'

She accepted the support he offered her, and they slowly passed
out of the churchyard.  They were in the act of emerging into the
main thoroughfare, when another figure loitering discontentedly
by, and looking up the street and down it, and all about, started
and exclaimed, 'Lizzie! why, where have you been?  Why, what's
the matter?'

As Eugene Wrayburn thus addressed her, she drew closer to the
Jew, and bent her head.  The Jew having taken in the whole of
Eugene at one sharp glance, cast his eyes upon the ground, and
stood mute.

'Lizzie, what is the matter?'

'Mr Wrayburn, I cannot tell you now.  I cannot tell you to-night, if
I ever can tell you.  Pray leave me.'

'But, Lizzie, I came expressly to join you.  I came to walk home
with you, having dined at a coffee-house in this neighbourhood
and knowing your hour.  And I have been lingering about,' added
Eugene, 'like a bailiff; or,' with a look at Riah, 'an old clothesman.'

The Jew lifted up his eyes, and took in Eugene once more, at
another glance.

'Mr Wrayburn, pray, pray, leave me with this protector.  And one
thing more.  Pray, pray be careful of yourself.'

'Mysteries of Udolpho!' said Eugene, with a look of wonder.  'May
I be excused for asking, in the elderly gentleman's presence, who
is this kind protector?'

'A trustworthy friend,' said Lizzie.

'I will relieve him of his trust,' returned Eugene.  'But you must tell
me, Lizzie, what is the matter?'

'Her brother is the matter,' said the old man, lifting up his eyes
again.

'Our brother the matter?' returned Eugene, with airy contempt.
'Our brother is not worth a thought, far less a tear.  What has our
brother done?'

The old man lifted up his eyes again, with one grave look at
Wrayburn, and one grave glance at Lizzie, as she stood looking
down.  Both were so full of meaning that even Eugene was
checked in his light career, and subsided into a thoughtful
'Humph!'

With an air of perfect patience the old man, remaining mute and
keeping his eyes cast down, stood, retaining Lizzie's arm, as
though in his habit of passive endurance, it would be all one to
him if he had stood there motionless all night.

'If Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, who soon found this fatiguing, 'will be
good enough to relinquish his charge to me, he will be quite free
for any engagement he may have at the Synagogue.  Mr Aaron,
will you have the kindness?'

But the old man stood stock still.

'Good evening, Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, politely; 'we need not
detain you.'  Then turning to Lizzie, 'Is our friend Mr Aaron a little
deaf?'

'My hearing is very good, Christian gentleman,' replied the old
man, calmly; 'but I will hear only one voice to-night, desiring me
to leave this damsel before I have conveyed her to her home.  If
she requests it, I will do it.  I will do it for no one else.'

'May I ask why so, Mr Aaron?' said Eugene, quite undisturbed in
his ease.

'Excuse me.  If she asks me, I will tell her,' replied the old man.  'I
will tell no one else.'

'I do not ask you,' said Lizzie, 'and I beg you to take me home.  Mr
Wrayburn, I have had a bitter trial to-night, and I hope you will
not think me ungrateful, or mysterious, or changeable.  I am
neither; I am wretched.  Pray remember what I said to you.  Pray,
pray, take care.'

'My dear Lizzie,' he returned, in a low voice, bending over her on
the other side; 'of what?  Of whom?'

'Of any one you have lately seen and made angry.'

He snapped his fingers and laughed.  'Come,' said he, 'since no
better may be, Mr Aaron and I will divide this trust, and see you
home together.  Mr Aaron on that side; I on this.  If perfectly
agreeable to Mr Aaron, the escort will now proceed.'

He knew his power over her.  He knew that she would not insist
upon his leaving her.  He knew that, her fears for him being
aroused, she would be uneasy if he were out of her sight.  For all
his seeming levity and carelessness, he knew whatever he chose to
know of the thoughts of her heart.

And going on at her side, so gaily, regardless of all that had been
urged against him; so superior in his sallies and self-possession to
the gloomy constraint of her suitor and the selfish petulance of her
brother; so faithful to her, as it seemed, when her own stock was
faithless; what an immense advantage, what an overpowering
influence, were his that night!  Add to the rest, poor girl, that she
had heard him vilified for her sake, and that she had suffered for
his, and where the wonder that his occasional tones of serious
interest (setting off his carelessness, as if it were assumed to calm
her), that his lightest touch, his lightest look, his very presence
beside her in the dark common street, were like glimpses of an
enchanted world, which it was natural for jealousy and malice and
all meanness to be unable to bear the brightness of, and to gird at
as bad spirits might.

Nothing more being said of repairing to Riah's, they went direct to
Lizzie's lodging.  A little short of the house-door she parted from
them, and went in alone.

'Mr Aaron,' said Eugene, when they were left together in the
street, 'with many thanks for your company, it remains for me
unwillingly to say Farewell.'

'Sir,' returned the other, 'I give you good night, and I wish that you
were not so thoughtless.'

'Mr Aaron,' returned Eugene, 'I give you good night, and I wish
(for you are a little dull) that you were not so thoughtful.'

But now, that his part was played out for the evening, and when in
turning his back upon the Jew he came off the stage, he was
thoughtful himself.  'How did Lightwood's catechism run?' he
murmured, as he stopped to light his cigar.  'What is to come of it?
What are you doing?  Where are you going?  We shall soon know
now.  Ah!' with a heavy sigh.

The heavy sigh was repeated as if by an echo, an hour afterwards,
when Riah, who had been sitting on some dark steps in a corner
over against the house, arose and went his patient way; stealing
through the streets in his ancient dress, like the ghost of a departed
Time.



Chapter 16

AN ANNIVERSARY OCCASION


The estimable Twemlow, dressing himself in his lodgings over the
stable-yard in Duke Street, Saint James's, and hearing the horses at
their toilette below, finds himself on the whole in a
disadvantageous position as compared with the noble animals at
livery.  For whereas, on the one hand, he has no attendant to slap
him soundingly and require him in gruff accents to come up and
come over, still, on the other hand, he has no attendant at all; and
the mild gentleman's finger-joints and other joints working rustily
in the morning, he could deem it agreeable even to be tied up by
the countenance at his chamber-door, so he were there skilfully
rubbed down and slushed and sluiced and polished and clothed,
while himself taking merely a passive part in these trying
transactions.

How the fascinating Tippins gets on when arraying herself for the
bewilderment of the senses of men, is known only to the Graces
and her maid; but perhaps even that engaging creature, though not
reduced to the self-dependence of Twemlow could dispense with
a good deal of the trouble attendant on the daily restoration of her
charms, seeing that as to her face and neck this adorable divinity
is, as it were, a diurnal species of lobster--throwing off a shell
every forenoon, and needing to keep in a retired spot until the new
crust hardens.

Howbeit, Twemlow doth at length invest himself with collar and
cravat and wristbands to his knuckles, and goeth forth to
breakfast.  And to breakfast with whom but his near neighbours,
the Lammles of Sackville Street, who have imparted to him that
he will meet his distant kinsman, Mr Fledgely.  The awful
Snigsworth might taboo and prohibit Fledgely, but the peaceable
Twemlow reasons, If he IS my kinsman I didn't make him so, and
to meet a man is not to know him.'

It is the first anniversary of the happy marriage of Mr and Mrs
Lammle, and the celebration is a breakfast, because a dinner on
the desired scale of sumptuosity cannot be achieved within less
limits than those of the non-existent palatial residence of which so
many people are madly envious.  So, Twemlow trips with not a
little stiffness across Piccadilly, sensible of having once been more
upright in figure and less in danger of being knocked down by
swift vehicles.  To be sure that was in the days when he hoped for
leave from the dread Snigsworth to do something, or be
something, in life, and before that magnificent Tartar issued the
ukase, 'As he will never distinguish himself, he must be a poor
gentleman-pensioner of mine, and let him hereby consider himself
pensioned.'

Ah! my Twemlow!  Say, little feeble grey personage, what
thoughts are in thy breast to-day, of the Fancy--so still to call her
who bruised thy heart when it was green and thy head brown--and
whether it be better or worse, more painful or less, to believe in
the Fancy to this hour, than to know her for a greedy armour-
plated crocodile, with no more capacity of imagining the delicate
and sensitive and tender spot behind thy waistcoat, than of going
straight at it with a knitting-needle.  Say likewise, my Twemlow,
whether it be the happier lot to be a poor relation of the great, or
to stand in the wintry slush giving the hack horses to drink out of
the shallow tub at the coach-stand, into which thou has so nearly
set thy uncertain foot.  Twemlow says nothing, and goes on.

As he approaches the Lammles' door, drives up a little one-horse
carriage, containing Tippins the divine.  Tippins, letting down the
window, playfully extols the vigilance of her cavalier in being in
waiting there to hand her out.  Twemlow hands her out with as
much polite gravity as if she were anything real, and they proceed
upstairs.  Tippins all abroad about the legs, and seeking to express
that those unsteady articles are only skipping in their native
buoyancy.

And dear Mrs Lammle and dear Mr Lammle, how do you do, and
when are you going down to what's-its-name place--Guy, Earl of
Warwick, you know--what is it?--Dun Cow--to claim the flitch of
bacon?  And Mortimer, whose name is for ever blotted out from
my list of lovers, by reason first of fickleness and then of base
desertion, how do YOU do, wretch?  And Mr Wrayburn, YOU
here!  What can YOU come for, because we are all very sure
before-hand that you are not going to talk!  And Veneering, M.P.,
how are things going on down at the house, and when will you
turn out those terrible people for us?  And Mrs Veneering, my
dear, can it positively be true that you go down to that stifling
place night after night, to hear those men prose?  Talking of
which, Veneering, why don't you prose, for you haven't opened
your lips there yet, and we are dying to hear what you have got to
say to us!  Miss Podsnap, charmed to see you.  Pa, here?  No!
Ma, neither?  Oh!  Mr Boots!  Delighted.  Mr Brewer!  This IS a
gathering of the clans.  Thus Tippins, and surveys Fledgeby and
outsiders through golden glass, murmuring as she turns about and
about, in her innocent giddy way, Anybody else I know?  No, I
think not.  Nobody there. Nobody THERE.  Nobody anywhere!

Mr Lammle, all a-glitter, produces his friend Fledgeby, as dying
for the honour of presentation to Lady Tippins.  Fledgeby
presented, has the air of going to say something, has the air of
going to say nothing, has an air successively of meditation, of
resignation, and of desolation, backs on Brewer, makes the tour of
Boots, and fades into the extreme background, feeling for his
whisker, as if it might have turned up since he was there five
minutes ago.

But Lammle has him out again before he has so much as
completely ascertained the bareness of the land.  He would seem
to be in a bad way, Fledgeby; for Lammle represents him as dying
again.  He is dying now, of want of presentation to Twemlow.

Twemlow offers his hand.  Glad to see him.  'Your mother, sir,
was a connexion of mine.'

'I believe so,' says Fledgeby, 'but my mother and her family were
two.'

'Are you staying in town?' asks Twemlow.

'I always am,' says Fledgeby.

'You like town,' says Twemlow.  But is felled flat by Fledgeby's
taking it quite ill, and replying, No, he don't like town.  Lammle
tries to break the force of the fall, by remarking that some people
do not like town.  Fledgeby retorting that he never heard of any
such case but his own, Twemlow goes down again heavily.

'There is nothing new this morning, I suppose?' says Twemlow,
returning to the mark with great spirit.

Fledgeby has not heard of anything.

'No, there's not a word of news,' says Lammle.

'Not a particle,' adds Boots.

'Not an atom,' chimes in Brewer.

Somehow the execution of this little concerted piece appears to
raise the general spirits as with a sense of duty done, and sets the
company a going.  Everybody seems more equal than before, to
the calamity of being in the society of everybody else.  Even
Eugene standing in a window, moodily swinging the tassel of a
blind, gives it a smarter jerk now, as if he found himself in better
case.

Breakfast announced.  Everything on table showy and gaudy, but
with a self-assertingly temporary and nomadic air on the
decorations, as boasting that they will be much more showy and
gaudy in the palatial residence.  Mr Lammle's own particular
servant behind his chair; the Analytical behind Veneering's chair;
instances in point that such servants fall into two classes: one
mistrusting the master's acquaintances, and the other mistrusting
the master.  Mr Lammle's servant, of the second class.  Appearing
to be lost in wonder and low spirits because the police are so long
in coming to take his master up on some charge of the first
magnitude.

Veneering, M.P., on the right of Mrs Lammle; Twemlow on her
left; Mrs Veneering, W.M.P. (wife of Member of Parliament), and
Lady Tippins on Mr Lammle's right and left.  But be sure that well
within the fascination of Mr Lammle's eye and smile sits little
Georgiana.  And be sure that close to little Georgiana, also under
inspection by the same gingerous gentleman, sits Fledgeby.

Oftener than twice or thrice while breakfast is in progress, Mr
Twemlow gives a little sudden turn towards Mrs Lammle, and
then says to her, 'I beg your pardon!'  This not being Twemlow's
usual way, why is it his way to-day?  Why, the truth is, Twemlow
repeatedly labours under the impression that Mrs Lammle is going
to speak to him, and turning finds that it is not so, and mostly that
she has her eyes upon Veneering.  Strange that this impression so
abides by Twemlow after being corrected, yet so it is.

Lady Tippins partaking plentifully of the fruits of the earth
(including grape-juice in the category) becomes livelier, and
applies herself to elicit sparks from Mortimer Lightwood.  It is
always understood among the initiated, that that faithless lover
must be planted at table opposite to Lady Tippins, who will then
strike conversational fire out of him.  In a pause of mastication
and deglutition, Lady Tippins, contemplating Mortimer, recalls
that it was at our dear Veneerings, and in the presence of a party
who are surely all here, that he told them his story of the man
from somewhere, which afterwards became so horribly interesting
and vulgarly popular.

'Yes, Lady Tippins,' assents Mortimer; 'as they say on the stage,
"Even so!"

'Then we expect you,' retorts the charmer, 'to sustain your
reputation, and tell us something else.'

'Lady Tippins, I exhausted myself for life that day, and there is
nothing more to be got out of me.'

Mortimer parries thus, with a sense upon him that elsewhere it is
Eugene and not he who is the jester, and that in these circles
where Eugene persists in being speechless, he, Mortimer, is but
the double of the friend on whom he has founded himself.

'But,' quoth the fascinating Tippins, 'I am resolved on getting
something more out of you.  Traitor! what is this I hear about
another disappearance?'

'As it is you who have heard it,' returns Lightwood, 'perhaps you'll
tell us.'

'Monster, away!' retorts Lady Tippins.  'Your own Golden
Dustman referred me to you.'

Mr Lammle, striking in here, proclaims aloud that there is a sequel
to the story of the man from somewhere.  Silence ensues upon the
proclamation.

'I assure you,' says Lightwood, glancing round the table, 'I have
nothing to tell.'  But Eugene adding in a low voice, 'There, tell it,
tell it!' he corrects himself with the addition, 'Nothing worth
mentioning.'

Boots and Brewer immediately perceive that it is immensely
worth mentioning, and become politely clamorous.  Veneering is
also visited by a perception to the same effect.  But it is
understood that his attention is now rather used up, and difficult to
hold, that being the tone of the House of Commons.

'Pray don't be at the trouble of composing yourselves to listen,'
says Mortimer Lightwood, 'because I shall have finished long
before you have fallen into comfortable attitudes.  It's like--'

'It's like,' impatiently interrupts Eugene, 'the children's narrative:

     "I'll tell you a story
       Of Jack a Manory,
       And now my story's begun;
       I'll tell you another
       Of Jack and his brother,
       And now my story is done."

--Get on, and get it over!'

Eugene says this with a sound of vexation in his voice, leaning
back in his chair and looking balefully at Lady Tippins, who nods
to him as her dear Bear, and playfully insinuates that she (a self-
evident proposition) is Beauty, and he Beast.

'The reference,' proceeds Mortimer, 'which I suppose to be made
by my honourable and fair enslaver opposite, is to the following
circumstance.  Very lately, the young woman, Lizzie Hexam,
daughter of the late Jesse Hexam, otherwise Gaffer, who will be
remembered to have found the body of the man from somewhere,
mysteriously received, she knew not from whom, an explicit
retraction of the charges made against her father, by another
water-side character of the name of Riderhood.  Nobody believed
them, because little Rogue Riderhood--I am tempted into the
paraphrase by remembering the charming wolf who would have
rendered society a great service if he had devoured Mr
Riderhood's father and mother in their infancy--had previously
played fast and loose with the said charges, and, in fact,
abandoned them.  However, the retraction I have mentioned
found its way into Lizzie Hexam's hands, with a general flavour on
it of having been favoured by some anonymous messenger in a
dark cloak and slouched hat, and was by her forwarded, in her
father's vindication, to Mr Boffin, my client.  You will excuse the
phraseology of the shop, but as I never had another client, and in
all likelihood never shall have, I am rather proud of him as a
natural curiosity probably unique.'

Although as easy as usual on the surface, Lightwood is not quite
as easy as usual below it.  With an air of not minding Eugene at
all, he feels that the subject is not altogether a safe one in that
connexion.

'The natural curiosity which forms the sole ornament of my
professional museum,' he resumes, 'hereupon desires his
Secretary--an individual of the hermit-crab or oyster species, and
whose name, I think, is Chokesmith--but it doesn't in the least
matter--say Artichoke--to put himself in communication with
Lizzie Hexam.  Artichoke professes his readiness so to do,
endeavours to do so, but fails.'

'Why fails?' asks Boots.

'How fails?' asks Brewer.

'Pardon me,' returns Lightwood,' I must postpone the reply for one
moment, or we shall have an anti-climax.  Artichoke failing
signally, my client refers the task to me: his purpose being to
advance the interests of the object of his search.  I proceed to put
myself in communication with her; I even happen to possess some
special means,' with a glance at Eugene, 'of putting myself in
communication with her; but I fail too, because she has vanished.'

'Vanished!' is the general echo.

'Disappeared,' says Mortimer.  'Nobody knows how, nobody
knows when, nobody knows where.  And so ends the story to
which my honourable and fair enslaver opposite referred.'

Tippins, with a bewitching little scream, opines that we shall every
one of us be murdered in our beds.  Eugene eyes her as if some of
us would be enough for him.  Mrs Veneering, W.M.P., remarks
that these social mysteries make one afraid of leaving Baby.
Veneering, M.P., wishes to be informed (with something of a
second-hand air of seeing the Right Honourable Gentleman at the
head of the Home Department in his place) whether it is intended
to be conveyed that the vanished person has been spirited away or
otherwise harmed?  Instead of Lightwood's answering, Eugene
answers, and answers hastily and vexedly: 'No, no, no; he doesn't
mean that; he means voluntarily vanished--but utterly--
completely.'

However, the great subject of the happiness of Mr and Mrs
Lammle must not be allowed to vanish with the other
vanishments--with the vanishing of the murderer, the vanishing of
Julius Handford, the vanishing of Lizzie Hexam,--and therefore
Veneering must recall the present sheep to the pen from which
they have strayed.  Who so fit to discourse of the happiness of Mr
and Mrs Lammle, they being the dearest and oldest friends he has
in the world; or what audience so fit for him to take into his
confidence as that audience, a noun of multitude or signifying
many, who are all the oldest and dearest friends he has in the
world?  So Veneering, without the formality of rising, launches
into a familiar oration, gradually toning into the Parliamentary
sing-song, in which he sees at that board his dear friend Twemlow
who on that day twelvemonth bestowed on his dear friend
Lammle the fair hand of his dear friend Sophronia, and in which
he also sees at that board his dear friends Boots and Brewer
whose rallying round him at a period when his dear friend Lady
Tippins likewise rallied round him--ay, and in the foremost rank--
he can never forget while memory holds her seat.  But he is free to
confess that he misses from that board his dear old friend
Podsnap, though he is well represented by his dear young friend
Georgiana.  And he further sees at that board (this he announces
with pomp, as if exulting in the powers of an extraordinary
telescope) his friend Mr Fledgeby, if he will permit him to call him
so.  For all of these reasons, and many more which he right well
knows will have occurred to persons of your exceptional
acuteness, he is here to submit to you that the time has arrived
when, with our hearts in our glasses, with tears in our eyes, with
blessings on our lips, and in a general way with a profusion of
gammon and spinach in our emotional larders, we should one and
all drink to our dear friends the Lammles, wishing them many
years as happy as the last, and many many friends as congenially
united as themselves.  And this he will add; that Anastatia
Veneering (who is instantly heard to weep) is formed on the same
model as her old and chosen friend Sophronia Lammle, in respect
that she is devoted to the man who wooed and won her, and nobly
discharges the duties of a wife.

Seeing no better way out of it, Veneering here pulls up his
oratorical Pegasus extremely short, and plumps down, clean over
his head, with: 'Lammle, God bless you!'

Then Lammle.  Too much of him every way; pervadingly too
much nose of a coarse wrong shape, and his nose in his mind and
his manners; too much smile to be real; too much frown to be
false; too many large teeth to be visible at once without suggesting
a bite.  He thanks you, dear friends, for your kindly greeting, and
hopes to receive you--it may be on the next of these delightful
occasions--in a residence better suited to your claims on the rites
of hospitality.  He will never forget that at Veneering's he first saw
Sophronia.  Sophronia will never forget that at Veneering's she
first saw him.  'They spoke of it soon after they were married, and
agreed that they would never forget it.  In fact, to Veneering they
owe their union.  They hope to show their sense of this some day
('No, no, from Veneering)--oh yes, yes, and let him rely upon it,
they will if they can!  His marriage with Sophronia was not a
marriage of interest on either side: she had her little fortune, he
had his little fortune: they joined their little fortunes: it was a
marriage of pure inclination and suitability.  Thank you!
Sophronia and he are fond of the society of young people; but he
is not sure that their house would be a good house for young
people proposing to remain single, since the contemplation of its
domestic bliss might induce them to change their minds.  He will
not apply this to any one present; certainly not to their darling
little Georgiana.  Again thank you!  Neither, by-the-by, will he
apply it to his friend Fledgeby.  He thanks Veneering for the
feeling manner in which he referred to their common friend
Fledgeby, for he holds that gentleman in the highest estimation.
Thank you.  In fact (returning unexpectedly to Fledgeby), the
better you know him, the more you find in him that you desire to
know.  Again thank you!  In his dear Sophronia's name and in his
own, thank you!

Mrs Lammle has sat quite still, with her eyes cast down upon the
table-cloth.  As Mr Lammle's address ends, Twemlow once more
turns to her involuntarily, not cured yet of that often recurring
impression that she is going to speak to him.  This time she really
is going to speak to him.  Veneering is talking with his other next
neighbour, and she speaks in a low voice.

'Mr Twemlow.'

He answers, 'I beg your pardon?  Yes?'  Still a little doubtful,
because of her not looking at him.

'You have the soul of a gentleman, and I know I may trust you.
Will you give me the opportunity of saying a few words to you
when you come up stairs?'

'Assuredly.  I shall be honoured.'

'Don't seem to do so, if you please, and don't think it inconsistent
if my manner should be more careless than my words.  I may be
watched.'

Intensely astonished, Twemlow puts his hand to his forehead, and
sinks back in his chair meditating.  Mrs Lammle rises.  All rise.
The ladies go up stairs.  The gentlemen soon saunter after them.
Fledgeby has devoted the interval to taking an observation of
Boots's whiskers, Brewer's whiskers, and Lammle's whiskers, and
considering which pattern of whisker he would prefer to produce
out of himself by friction, if the Genie of the cheek would only
answer to his rubbing.

In the drawing-room, groups form as usual.  Lightwood, Boots,
and Brewer, flutter like moths around that yellow wax candle--
guttering down, and with some hint of a winding-sheet in it--Lady
Tippins.  Outsiders cultivate Veneering, M P., and Mrs Veneering,
W.M.P.  Lammle stands with folded arms, Mephistophelean in a
corner, with Georgiana and Fledgeby.  Mrs Lammle, on a sofa by
a table, invites Mr Twemlow's attention to a book of portraits in
her hand.

Mr Twemlow takes his station on a settee before her, and Mrs
Lammle shows him a portrait.

'You have reason to be surprised,' she says softly, 'but I wish you
wouldn't look so.'

Disturbed Twemlow, making an effort not to look so, looks much
more so.

'I think, Mr Twemlow, you never saw that distant connexion of
yours before to-day?'

'No, never.'

'Now that you do see him, you see what he is.  You are not proud
of him?'

'To say the truth, Mrs Lammle, no.'

'If you knew more of him, you would be less inclined to
acknowledge him.  Here is another portrait.  What do you think of
it?'

Twemlow has just presence of mind enough to say aloud: 'Very
like!  Uncommonly like!'

'You have noticed, perhaps, whom he favours with his attentions?
You notice where he is now, and how engaged?'

'Yes. But Mr Lammle--'

She darts a look at him which he cannot comprehend, and shows
him another portrait.

'Very good; is it not?'

'Charming!' says Twemlow.

'So like as to be almost a caricature?--Mr Twemlow, it is
impossible to tell you what the struggle in my mind has been,
before I could bring myself to speak to you as I do now.  It is only
in the conviction that I may trust you never to betray me, that I
can proceed.  Sincerely promise me that you never will betray my
confidence--that you will respect it, even though you may no
longer respect me,--and I shall be as satisfied as if you had sworn
it.'

'Madam, on the honour of a poor gentleman--'

'Thank you.  I can desire no more.  Mr Twemlow, I implore you to
save that child!'

'That child?'

'Georgiana.  She will be sacrificed.  She will be inveigled and
married to that connexion of yours.  It is a partnership affair, a
money-speculation.  She has no strength of will or character to
help herself and she is on the brink of being sold into
wretchedness for life.'

'Amazing!  But what can I do to prevent it?' demands Twemlow,
shocked and bewildered to the last degree.

'Here is another portrait.  And not good, is it?'

Aghast at the light manner of her throwing her head back to look
at it critically, Twemlow still dimly perceives the expediency of
throwing his own head back, and does so.  Though he no more
sees the portrait than if it were in China.

'Decidedly not good,' says Mrs Lammle.  'Stiff and exaggerated!'

'And ex--'  But Twemlow, in his demolished state, cannot
command the word, and trails off into '--actly so.'

'Mr Twemlow, your word will have weight with her pompous,
self-blinded father.  You know how much he makes of your
family.  Lose no time.  Warn him.'

'But warn him against whom?'

'Against me.'

By great good fortune Twemlow receives a stimulant at this
critical instant.  The stimulant is Lammle's voice.

'Sophronia, my dear, what portraits are you showing Twemlow?'

'Public characters, Alfred.'

'Show him the last of me.'

'Yes, Alfred.'

She puts the book down, takes another book up, turns the leaves,
and presents the portrait to Twemlow.

'That is the last of Mr Lammle.  Do you think it good?--Warn her
father against me.  I deserve it, for I have been in the scheme from
the first.  It is my husband's scheme, your connexion's, and mine.
I tell you this, only to show you the necessity of the poor little
foolish affectionate creature's being befriended and rescued.  You
will not repeat this to her father.  You will spare me so far, and
spare my husband.  For, though this celebration of to-day is all a
mockery, he is my husband, and we must live.--Do you think it
like?'

Twemlow, in a stunned condition, feigns to compare the portrait in
his hand with the original looking towards him from his
Mephistophelean corner.

'Very well indeed!' are at length the words which Twemlow with
great difficulty extracts from himself.

'I am glad you think so.  On the whole, I myself consider it the
best.  The others are so dark.  Now here, for instance, is another
of Mr Lammle--'

'But I don't understand; I don't see my way,' Twemlow stammers,
as he falters over the book with his glass at his eye.  'How warn
her father, and not tell him?  Tell him how much?  Tell him how
little?  I--I--am getting lost.'

'Tell him I am a match-maker; tell him I am an artful and
designing woman; tell him you are sure his daughter is best out of
my house and my company.  Tell him any such things of me; they
will all be true.  You know what a puffed-up man he is, and how
easily you can cause his vanity to take the alarm.  Tell him as
much as will give him the alarm and make him careful of her, and
spare me the rest.  Mr Twemlow, I feel my sudden degradation in
your eyes; familiar as I am with my degradation in my own eyes, I
keenly feel the change that must have come upon me in yours, in
these last few moments.  But I trust to your good faith with me as
implicitly as when I began.  If you knew how often I have tried to
speak to you to-day, you would almost pity me.  I want no new
promise from you on my own account, for I am satisfied, and I
always shall be satisfied, with the promise you have given me.  I
can venture to say no more, for I see that I am watched.  If you
would set my mind at rest with the assurance that you will
interpose with the father and save this harmless girl, close that
book before you return it to me, and I shall know what you mean,
and deeply thank you in my heart.--Alfred, Mr Twemlow thinks
the last one the best, and quite agrees with you and me.'

Alfred advances.  The groups break up.  Lady Tippins rises to go,
and Mrs Veneering follows her leader.  For the moment, Mrs
Lammle does not turn to them, but remains looking at Twemlow
looking at Alfred's portrait through his eyeglass.  The moment
past, Twemlow drops his eyeglass at its ribbon's length, rises, and
closes the book with an emphasis which makes that fragile
nursling of the fairies, Tippins, start.

Then good-bye and good-bye, and charming occasion worthy of
the Golden Age, and more about the flitch of bacon, and the like
of that; and Twemlow goes staggering across Piccadilly with his
hand to his forehead, and is nearly run down by a flushed
lettercart, and at last drops safe in his easy-chair, innocent good
gentleman, with his hand to his forehead still, and his head in a
whirl.



BOOK THE THIRD

A LONG LANE



Chapter 1

LODGERS IN QUEER STREET


It was a foggy day in London, and the fog was heavy and dark.
Animate London, with smarting eyes and irritated lungs, was
blinking, wheezing, and choking; inanimate London was a sooty
spectre, divided in purpose between being visible and invisible,
and so being wholly neither.  Gaslights flared in the shops with a
haggard and unblest air, as knowing themselves to be night-
creatures that had no business abroad under the sun; while the sun
itself when it was for a few moments dimly indicated through
circling eddies of fog, showed as if it had gone out and were
collapsing flat and cold.  Even in the surrounding country it was a
foggy day, but there the fog was grey, whereas in London it was, at
about the boundary line, dark yellow, and a little within it brown,
and then browner, and then browner, until at the heart of the City--
which call Saint Mary Axe--it was rusty-black.  From any point of
the high ridge of land northward, it might have been discerned that
the loftiest buildings made an occasional struggle to get their heads
above the foggy sea, and especially that the great dome of Saint
Paul's seemed to die hard; but this was not perceivable in the
streets at their feet, where the whole metropolis was a heap of
vapour charged with muffled sound of wheels, and enfolding a
gigantic catarrh.

At nine o'clock on such a morning, the place of business of Pubsey
and Co. was not the liveliest object even in Saint Mary Axe--which
is not a very lively spot--with a sobbing gaslight in the counting-
house window, and a burglarious stream of fog creeping in to
strangle it through the keyhole of the main door.  But the light
went out, and the main door opened, and Riah came forth with a
bag under his arm.

Almost in the act of coming out at the door, Riah went into the fog,
and was lost to the eyes of Saint Mary Axe.  But the eyes of this
history can follow him westward, by Cornhill, Cheapside, Fleet
Street, and the Strand, to Piccadilly and the Albany.  Thither he
went at his grave and measured pace, staff in hand, skirt at heel;
and more than one head, turning to look back at his venerable
figure already lost in the mist, supposed it to be some ordinary
figure indistinctly seen, which fancy and the fog had worked into
that passing likeness.

Arrived at the house in which his master's chambers were on the
second floor, Riah proceeded up the stairs, and paused at
Fascination Fledgeby's door.  Making free with neither bell nor
knocker, he struck upon the door with the top of his staff, and,
having listened, sat down on the threshold.  It was characteristic of
his habitual submission, that he sat down on the raw dark
staircase, as many of his ancestors had probably sat down in
dungeons, taking what befell him as it might befall.

After a time, when he had grown so cold as to be fain to blow upon
his fingers, he arose and knocked with his staff again, and listened
again, and again sat down to wait.  Thrice he repeated these
actions before his listening ears were greeted by the voice of
Fledgeby, calling from his bed, 'Hold your row!--I'll come and open
the door directly!'  But, in lieu of coming directly, he fell into a
sweet sleep for some quarter of an hour more, during which added
interval Riah sat upon the stairs and waited with perfect patience.

At length the door stood open, and Mr Fledgeby's retreating
drapery plunged into bed again.  Following it at a respectful
distance, Riah passed into the bed-chamber, where a fire had been
sometime lighted, and was burning briskly.

'Why, what time of night do you mean to call it?' inquired
Fledgeby, turning away beneath the clothes, and presenting a
comfortable rampart of shoulder to the chilled figure of the old
man.

'Sir, it is full half-past ten in the morning.'

'The deuce it is!  Then it must be precious foggy?'

'Very foggy, sir.'

'And raw, then?'

'Chill and bitter,' said Riah, drawing out a handkerchief, and
wiping the moisture from his beard and long grey hair as he stood
on the verge of the rug, with his eyes on the acceptable fire.

With a plunge of enjoyment, Fledgeby settled himself afresh.

'Any snow, or sleet, or slush, or anything of that sort?' he asked.

'No, sir, no.  Not quite so bad as that.  The streets are pretty clean.'

'You needn't brag about it,' returned Fledgeby, disappointed in his
desire to heighten the contrast between his bed and the streets.
'But you're always bragging about something.  Got the books
there?'

'They are here, sir.'

'All right.  I'll turn the general subject over in my mind for a
minute or two, and while I'm about it you can empty your bag and
get ready for me.'

With another comfortable plunge, Mr Fledgeby fell asleep again.
The old man, having obeyed his directions, sat down on the edge of
a chair, and, folding his hands before him, gradually yielded to the
influence of the warmth, and dozed.  He was roused by Mr
Fledgeby's appearing erect at the foot of the bed, in Turkish
slippers, rose-coloured Turkish trousers (got cheap from somebody
who had cheated some other somebody out of them), and a gown
and cap to correspond.  In that costume he would have left nothing
to be desired, if he had been further fitted out with a bottomless
chair, a lantern, and a bunch of matches.

'Now, old 'un!' cried Fascination, in his light raillery, 'what dodgery
are you up to next, sitting there with your eyes shut?  You ain't
asleep.  Catch a weasel at it, and catch a Jew!'

'Truly, sir, I fear I nodded,' said the old man.

'Not you!' returned Fledgeby, with a cunning look.  'A telling move
with a good many, I dare say, but it won't put ME off my guard.
Not a bad notion though, if you want to look indifferent in driving
a bargain.  Oh, you are a dodger!'

The old man shook his head, gently repudiating the imputation,
and suppressed a sigh, and moved to the table at which Mr
Fledgeby was now pouring out for himself a cup of steaming and
fragrant coffee from a pot that had stood ready on the hob.  It was
an edifying spectacle, the young man in his easy chair taking his
coffee, and the old man with his grey head bent, standing awaiting
his pleasure.

'Now!' said Fledgeby.  'Fork out your balance in hand, and prove
by figures how you make it out that it ain't more.  First of all, light
that candle.'

Riah obeyed, and then taking a bag from his breast, and referring
to the sum in the accounts for which they made him responsible,
told it out upon the table.  Fledgeby told it again with great care,
and rang every sovereign.

'I suppose,' he said, taking one up to eye it closely, 'you haven't
been lightening any of these; but it's a trade of your people's, you
know.  YOU understand what sweating a pound means, don't
you?'

'Much as you do, sir,' returned the old man, with his hands under
opposite cuffs of his loose sleeves, as he stood at the table,
deferentially observant of the master's face.  'May I take the liberty
to say something?'

'You may,' Fledgeby graciously conceded.

'Do you not, sir--without intending it--of a surety without intending
it--sometimes mingle the character I fairly earn in your
employment, with the character which it is your policy that I
should bear?'

'I don't find it worth my while to cut things so fine as to go into the
inquiry,' Fascination coolly answered.

'Not in justice?'

'Bother justice!' said Fledgeby.

'Not in generosity?'

'Jews and generosity!' said Fledgeby.  'That's a good connexion!
Bring out your vouchers, and don't talk Jerusalem palaver.'

The vouchers were produced, and for the next half-hour Mr
Fledgeby concentrated his sublime attention on them.  They and
the accounts were all found correct, and the books and the papers
resumed their places in the bag.

'Next,' said Fledgeby, 'concerning that bill-broking branch of the
business; the branch I like best.  What queer bills are to be bought,
and at what prices?  You have got your list of what's in the
market?'

'Sir, a long list,' replied Riah, taking out a pocket-book, and
selecting from its contents a folded paper, which, being unfolded,
became a sheet of foolscap covered with close writing.

'Whew!' whistled Fledgeby, as he took it in his hand.  'Queer Street
is full of lodgers just at present!  These are to be disposed of in
parcels; are they?'

'In parcels as set forth,' returned the old man, looking over his
master's shoulder; 'or the lump.'

'Half the lump will be waste-paper, one knows beforehand,' said
Fledgeby.  'Can you get it at waste-paper price?  That's the
question.'

Riah shook his head, and Fledgeby cast his small eyes down the
list.  They presently began to twinkle, and he no sooner became
conscious of their twinkling, than he looked up over his shoulder at
the grave face above him, and moved to the chimney-piece.
Making a desk of it, he stood there with his back to the old man,
warming his knees, perusing the list at his leisure, and often
returning to some lines of it, as though they were particularly
interesting.  At those times he glanced in the chimney-glass to see
what note the old man took of him.  He took none that could be
detected, but, aware of his employer's suspicions, stood with his
eyes on the ground.

Mr Fledgeby was thus amiably engaged when a step was heard at
the outer door, and the door was heard to open hastily.  'Hark!
That's your doing, you Pump of Israel,' said Fledgeby; 'you can't
have shut it.'  Then the step was heard within, and the voice of Mr
Alfred Lammle called aloud, 'Are you anywhere here, Fledgeby?'
To which Fledgeby, after cautioning Riah in a low voice to take his
cue as it should be given him, replied, 'Here I am!' and opened his
bedroom door.

'Come in!' said Fledgeby.  'This gentleman is only Pubsey and Co.
of Saint Mary Axe, that I am trying to make terms for an
unfortunate friend with in a matter of some dishonoured bills.  But
really Pubsey and Co. are so strict with their debtors, and so hard
to move, that I seem to be wasting my time.  Can't I make ANY
terms with you on my friend's part, Mr Riah?'

'I am but the representative of another, sir,' returned the Jew in a
low voice.  'I do as I am bidden by my principal.  It is not my
capital that is invested in the business.  It is not my profit that
arises therefrom.'

'Ha ha!' laughed Fledgeby.  'Lammle?'

'Ha ha!' laughed Lammle.  'Yes.  Of course.  We know.'

'Devilish good, ain't it, Lammle?' said Fledgeby, unspeakably
amused by his hidden joke.

'Always the same, always the same!' said Lammle.  'Mr--'

'Riah, Pubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axe,' Fledgeby put in, as he
wiped away the tears that trickled from his eyes, so rare was his
enjoyment of his secret joke.

'Mr Riah is bound to observe the invaRiahle forms for such cases
made and provided,' said Lammle.

'He is only the representative of another!' cried Fledgeby.  'Does as
he is told by his principal!  Not his capital that's invested in the
business.  Oh, that's good!  Ha ha ha ha!'  Mr Lammle joined in the
laugh and looked knowing; and the more he did both, the more
exquisite the secret joke became for Mr Fledgeby.

'However,' said that fascinating gentleman, wiping his eyes again,
'if we go on in this way, we shall seem to be almost making game
of Mr Riah, or of Pubsey and Co. Saint Mary Axe, or of somebody:
which is far from our intention.  Mr Riah, if you would have the
kindness to step into the next room for a few moments while I
speak with Mr Lammle here, I should like to try to make terms
with you once again before you go.'

The old man, who had never raised his eyes during the whole
transaction of Mr Fledgeby's joke, silently bowed and passed out
by the door which Fledgeby opened for him.  Having closed it on
him, Fledgeby returned to Lammle, standing with his back to the
bedroom fire, with one hand under his coat-skirts, and all his
whiskers in the other.

'Halloa!' said Fledgeby.  'There's something wrong!'

'How do you know it?' demanded Lammle.

'Because you show it,' replied Fledgeby in unintentional rhyme.

'Well then; there is,' said Lammle; 'there IS something wrong; the
whole thing's wrong.'

'I say!' remonstrated Fascination very slowly, and sitting down
with his hands on his knees to stare at his glowering friend with
his back to the fire.

'I tell you, Fledgeby,' repeated Lammle, with a sweep of his right
arm, 'the whole thing's wrong.  The game's up.'

'What game's up?' demanded Fledgeby, as slowly as before, and
more sternly.

'THE game.  OUR game.  Read that.'

Fledgeby took a note from his extended hand and read it aloud.
'Alfred Lammle, Esquire.  Sir: Allow Mrs Podsnap and myself to
express our united sense of the polite attentions of Mrs Alfred
Lammle and yourself towards our daughter, Georgiana.  Allow us
also, wholly to reject them for the future, and to communicate our
final desire that the two families may become entire strangers.  I
have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient and very humble
servant, JOHN PODSNAP.'  Fledgeby looked at the three blank
sides of this note, quite as long and earnestly as at the first
expressive side, and then looked at Lammle, who responded with
another extensive sweep of his right arm.

'Whose doing is this?' said Fledgeby.

'Impossible to imagine,' said Lammle.

'Perhaps,' suggested Fledgeby, after reflecting with a very
discontented brow, 'somebody has been giving you a bad
character.'

'Or you,' said Lammle, with a deeper frown.

Mr Fledgeby appeared to be on the verge of some mutinous
expressions, when his hand happened to touch his nose.  A certain
remembrance connected with that feature operating as a timely
warning, he took it thoughtfully between his thumb and forefinger,
and pondered; Lammle meanwhile eyeing him with furtive eyes.

'Well!' said Fledgeby.  'This won't improve with talking about.  If
we ever find out who did it, we'll mark that person.  There's
nothing more to be said, except that you undertook to do what
circumstances prevent your doing.'

'And that you undertook to do what you might have done by this
time, if you had made a prompter use of circumstances,' snarled
Lammle.

'Hah!  That,' remarked Fledgeby, with his hands in the Turkish
trousers, 'is matter of opinion.'

'Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle, in a bullying tone, 'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon me, or hint dissatisfaction with
me, in this affair?'

'No,' said Fledgeby; 'provided you have brought my promissory
note in your pocket, and now hand it over.'

Lammle produced it, not without reluctance.  Fledgeby looked at it,
identified it, twisted it up, and threw it into the fire.  They both
looked at it as it blazed, went out, and flew in feathery ash up the
chimney.

'NOW, Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle, as before; 'am I to understand
that you in any way reflect upon me, or hint dissatisfaction with
me, in this affair?'

'No,' said Fledgeby.

'Finally and unreservedly no?'

'Yes.'

'Fledgeby, my hand.'

Mr Fledgeby took it, saying, 'And if we ever find out who did this,
we'll mark that person.  And in the most friendly manner, let me
mention one thing more.  I don't know what your circumstances
are, and I don't ask.  You have sustained a loss here.  Many men
are liable to be involved at times, and you may be, or you may not
be.  But whatever you do, Lammle, don't--don't--don't, I beg of
you--ever fall into the hands of Pubsey and Co. in the next room,
for they are grinders.  Regular flayers and grinders, my dear
Lammle,' repeated Fledgeby with a peculiar relish, 'and they'll skin
you by the inch, from the nape of your neck to the sole of your foot,
and grind every inch of your skin to tooth-powder.  You have seen
what Mr Riah is.  Never fall into his hands, Lammle, I beg of you
as a friend!'

Mr Lammle, disclosing some alarm at the solemnity of this
affectionate adjuration, demanded why the devil he ever should fall
into the hands of Pubsey and Co.?

'To confess the fact, I was made a little uneasy,' said the candid
Fledgeby, 'by the manner in which that Jew looked at you when he
heard your name.  I didn't like his eye.  But it may have been the
heated fancy of a friend.  Of course if you are sure that you have no
personal security out, which you may not be quite equal to
meeting, and which can have got into his hands, it must have been
fancy.  Still, I didn't like his eye.'

The brooding Lammle, with certain white dints coming and going
in his palpitating nose, looked as if some tormenting imp were
pinching it.  Fledgeby, watching him with a twitch in his mean
face which did duty there for a smile, looked very like the
tormentor who was pinching.

'But I mustn't keep him waiting too long,' said Fledgeby, 'or he'll
revenge it on my unfortunate friend.  How's your very clever and
agreeable wife?  She knows we have broken down?'

'I showed her the letter.'

'Very much surprised?' asked Fledgeby.

'I think she would have been more so,' answered Lammle, 'if there
had been more go in YOU?'

'Oh!--She lays it upon me, then?'

'Mr Fledgeby, I will not have my words misconstrued.'

'Don't break out, Lammle,' urged Fledgeby, in a submissive tone,
'because there's no occasion.  I only asked a question.  Then she
don't lay it upon me?  To ask another question.'

'No, sir.'

'Very good,' said Fledgeby, plainly seeing that she did.  'My
compliments to her.  Good-bye!'

They shook hands, and Lammle strode out pondering.  Fledgeby
saw him into the fog, and, returning to the fire and musing with his
face to it, stretched the legs of the rose-coloured Turkish trousers
wide apart, and meditatively bent his knees, as if he were going
down upon them.

'You have a pair of whiskers, Lammle, which I never liked,'
murmured Fledgeby, 'and which money can't produce; you are
boastful of your manners and your conversation; you wanted to
pull my nose, and you have let me in for a failure, and your wife
says I am the cause of it.  I'll bowl you down.  I will, though I have
no whiskers,' here he rubbed the places where they were due, 'and
no manners, and no conversation!'

Having thus relieved his noble mind, he collected the legs of the
Turkish trousers, straightened himself on his knees, and called out
to Riah in the next room, 'Halloa, you sir!'  At sight of the old man
re-entering with a gentleness monstrously in contrast with the
character he had given him, Mr Fledgeby was so tickled again, that
he exclaimed, laughing, 'Good!  Good!  Upon my soul it is
uncommon good!'

'Now, old 'un,' proceeded Fledgeby, when he had had his laugh
out, 'you'll buy up these lots that I mark with my pencil--there's a
tick there, and a tick there, and a tick there--and I wager two-pence
you'll afterwards go on squeezing those Christians like the Jew you
are.  Now, next you'll want a cheque--or you'll say you want it,
though you've capital enough somewhere, if one only knew where,
but you'd be peppered and salted and grilled on a gridiron before
you'd own to it--and that cheque I'll write.'

When he had unlocked a drawer and taken a key from it to open
another drawer, in which was another key that opened another
drawer, in which was another key that opened another drawer, in
which was the cheque book; and when he had written the cheque;
and when, reversing the key and drawer process, he had placed his
cheque book in safety again; he beckoned the old man, with the
folded cheque, to come and take it.

'Old 'un,' said Fledgeby, when the Jew had put it in his
pocketbook, and was putting that in the breast of his outer
garment; 'so much at present for my affairs.  Now a word about
affairs that are not exactly mine.  Where is she?'

With his hand not yet withdrawn from the breast of his garment,
Riah started and paused.

'Oho!' said Fledgeby.  'Didn't expect it!  Where have you hidden
her?'

Showing that he was taken by surprise, the old man looked at his
master with some passing confusion, which the master highly
enjoyed.

'Is she in the house I pay rent and taxes for in Saint Mary Axe?'
demanded Fledgeby.

'No, sir.'

'Is she in your garden up atop of that house--gone up to be dead, or
whatever the game is?' asked Fledgeby.

'No, sir.'

'Where is she then?'

Riah bent his eyes upon the ground, as if considering whether he
could answer the question without breach of faith, and then silently
raised them to Fledgeby's face, as if he could not.

'Come!' said Fledgeby.  'I won't press that just now.  But I want to
know this, and I will know this, mind you.  What are you up to?'

The old man, with an apologetic action of his head and hands, as
not comprehending the master's meaning, addressed to him a look
of mute inquiry.

'You can't be a gallivanting dodger,' said Fledgeby.  'For you're a
"regular pity the sorrows", you know--if you DO know any
Christian rhyme--"whose trembling limbs have borne him to"--et
cetrer.  You're one of the Patriarchs; you're a shaky old card; and
you can't be in love with this Lizzie?'

'O, sir!' expostulated Riah.  'O, sir, sir, sir!'

'Then why,' retorted Fledgeby, with some slight tinge of a blush,
'don't you out with your reason for having your spoon in the soup at
all?'

'Sir, I will tell you the truth.  But (your pardon for the stipulation) it
is in sacred confidence; it is strictly upon honour.'

'Honour too!' cried Fledgeby, with a mocking lip.  'Honour among
Jews.  Well.  Cut away.'

'It is upon honour, sir?' the other still stipulated, with respectful
firmness.

'Oh, certainly.  Honour bright,' said Fledgeby.

The old man, never bidden to sit down, stood with an earnest hand
laid on the back of the young man's easy chair.  The young man sat
looking at the fire with a face of listening curiosity, ready to check
him off and catch him tripping.

'Cut away,' said Fledgeby.  'Start with your motive.'

'Sir, I have no motive but to help the helpless.'

Mr Fledgeby could only express the feelings to which this
incredible statement gave rise in his breast, by a prodigiously long
derisive sniff.

'How I came to know, and much to esteem and to respect, this
damsel, I mentioned when you saw her in my poor garden on the
house-top,' said the Jew.

'Did you?' said Fledgeby, distrustfully.  'Well.  Perhaps you did,
though.'

'The better I knew her, the more interest I felt in her fortunes.  They
gathered to a crisis.  I found her beset by a selfish and ungrateful
brother, beset by an unacceptable wooer, beset by the snares of a
more powerful lover, beset by the wiles of her own heart.'

'She took to one of the chaps then?'

'Sir, it was only natural that she should incline towards him, for he
had many and great advantages.  But he was not of her station, and
to marry her was not in his mind.  Perils were closing round her,
and the circle was fast darkening, when I--being as you have said,
sir, too old and broken to be suspected of any feeling for her but a
father's--stepped in, and counselled flight.  I said, "My daughter,
there are times of moral danger when the hardest virtuous
resolution to form is flight, and when the most heroic bravery is
flight."  She answered, she had had this in her thoughts; but
whither to fly without help she knew not, and there were none to
help her.  I showed her there was one to help her, and it was I.
And she is gone.'

'What did you do with her?' asked Fledgeby, feeling his cheek.

'I placed her,' said the old man, 'at a distance;' with a grave smooth
outward sweep from one another of his two open hands at arm's
length; 'at a distance--among certain of our people, where her
industry would serve her, and where she could hope to exercise it,
unassailed from any quarter.'

Fledgeby's eyes had come from the fire to notice the action of his
hands when he said 'at a distance.'  Fledgeby now tried (very
unsuccessfully) to imitate that action, as he shook his head and
said, 'Placed her in that direction, did you?  Oh you circular old
dodger!'

With one hand across his breast and the other on the easy chair,
Riah, without justifying himself, waited for further questioning.
But, that it was hopeless to question him on that one reserved
point, Fledgeby, with his small eyes too near together, saw full
well.

'Lizzie,' said Fledgeby, looking at the fire again, and then looking
up.  'Humph, Lizzie.  You didn't tell me the other name in your
garden atop of the house.  I'll be more communicative with you.
The other name's Hexam.'

Riah bent his head in assent.

'Look here, you sir,' said Fledgeby.  'I have a notion I know
something of the inveigling chap, the powerful one.  Has he
anything to do with the law?'

'Nominally, I believe it his calling.'

'I thought so.  Name anything like Lightwood?'

'Sir, not at all like.'

'Come, old 'un,' said Fledgeby, meeting his eyes with a wink, 'say
the name.'

'Wrayburn.'

'By Jupiter!' cried Fledgeby.  'That one, is it?  I thought it might be
the other, but I never dreamt of that one!  I shouldn't object to your
baulking either of the pair, dodger, for they are both conceited
enough; but that one is as cool a customer as ever I met with.  Got
a beard besides, and presumes upon it.  Well done, old 'un!  Go on
and prosper!'

Brightened by this unexpected commendation, Riah asked were
there more instructions for him?

'No,' said Fledgeby, 'you may toddle now, Judah, and grope about
on the orders you have got.'  Dismissed with those pleasing words,
the old man took his broad hat and staff, and left the great
presence: more as if he were some superior creature benignantly
blessing Mr Fledgeby, than the poor dependent on whom he set his
foot.  Left alone, Mr Fledgeby locked his outer door, and came
back to his fire.

'Well done you!' said Fascination to himself.  'Slow, you may be;
sure, you are!'  This he twice or thrice repeated with much
complacency, as he again dispersed the legs of the Turkish trousers
and bent the knees.

'A tidy shot that, I flatter myself,' he then soliloquised.  'And a Jew
brought down with it!  Now, when I heard the story told at
Lammle's, I didn't make a jump at Riah.  Not a hit of it; I got at
him by degrees.'  Herein he was quite accurate; it being his habit,
not to jump, or leap, or make an upward spring, at anything in life,
but to crawl at everything.

'I got at him,' pursued Fledgeby, feeling for his whisker, 'by
degrees.  If your Lammles or your Lightwoods had got at him
anyhow, they would have asked him the question whether he
hadn't something to do with that gal's disappearance.  I knew a
better way of going to work.  Having got behind the hedge, and put
him in the light, I took a shot at him and brought him down plump.
Oh! It don't count for much, being a Jew, in a match against ME!'

Another dry twist in place of a smile, made his face crooked here.

'As to Christians,' proceeded Fledgeby, 'look out, fellow-
Christians, particularly you that lodge in Queer Street!  I have got
the run of Queer Street now, and you shall see some games there.
To work a lot of power over you and you not know it, knowing as
you think yourselves, would be almost worth laying out money
upon.  But when it comes to squeezing a profit out of you into the
bargain, it's something like!'

With this apostrophe Mr Fledgeby appropriately proceeded to
divest himself of his Turkish garments, and invest himself with
Christian attire.  Pending which operation, and his morning
ablutions, and his anointing of himself with the last infallible
preparation for the production of luxuriant and glossy hair upon the
human countenance (quacks being the only sages he believed in
besides usurers), the murky fog closed about him and shut him up
in its sooty embrace.  If it had never let him out any more, the
world would have had no irreparable loss, but could have easily
replaced him from its stock on hand.



Chapter 2

A RESPECTED FRIEND IN A NEW ASPECT


In the evening of this same foggy day when the yellow window-
blind of Pubsey and Co. was drawn down upon the day's work,
Riah the Jew once more came forth into Saint Mary Axe.  But this
time he carried no bag, and was not bound on his master's affairs.
He passed over London Bridge, and returned to the Middlesex
shore by that of Westminster, and so, ever wading through the fog,
waded to the doorstep of the dolls' dressmaker.

Miss Wren expected him.  He could see her through the window
by the light of her low fire--carefully banked up with damp cinders
that it might last the longer and waste the less when she was out--
sitting waiting for him in her bonnet.  His tap at the glass roused
her from the musing solitude in which she sat, and she came to the
door to open it; aiding her steps with a little crutch-stick.

'Good evening, godmother!' said Miss Jenny Wren.

The old man laughed, and gave her his arm to lean on.

'Won't you come in and warm yourself, godmother?' asked Miss
Jenny Wren.

'Not if you are ready, Cinderella, my dear.'

'Well!' exclaimed Miss Wren, delighted.  'Now you ARE a clever
old boy!  If we gave prizes at this establishment (but we only keep
blanks), you should have the first silver medal, for taking me up so
quick.'  As she spake thus, Miss Wren removed the key of the
house-door from the keyhole and put it in her pocket, and then
bustlingly closed the door, and tried it as they both stood on the
step.  Satisfied that her dwelling was safe, she drew one hand
through the old man's arm and prepared to ply her crutch-stick
with the other.  But the key was an instrument of such gigantic
proportions, that before they started Riah proposed to carry it.

'No, no, no!  I'll carry it myself,' returned Miss Wren.  'I'm awfully
lopsided, you know, and stowed down in my pocket it'll trim the
ship.  To let you into a secret, godmother, I wear my pocket on my
high side, o' purpose.'

With that they began their plodding through the fog.

'Yes, it was truly sharp of you, godmother,' resumed Miss Wren
with great approbation, 'to understand me.  But, you see, you ARE
so like the fairy godmother in the bright little books!  You look so
unlike the rest of people, and so much as if you had changed
yourself into that shape, just this moment, with some benevolent
object.  Boh!' cried Miss Jenny, putting her face close to the old
man's.  'I can see your features, godmother, behind the beard.'

'Does the fancy go to my changing other objects too, Jenny?'

'Ah!  That it does!  If you'd only borrow my stick and tap this piece
of pavement--this dirty stone that my foot taps--it would start up a
coach and six.  I say!  Let's believe so!'

'With all my heart,' replied the good old man.

'And I'll tell you what I must ask you to do, godmother.  I must ask
you to be so kind as give my child a tap, and change him
altogether.  O my child has been such a bad, bad child of late!  It
worries me nearly out of my wits.  Not done a stroke of work these
ten days.  Has had the horrors, too, and fancied that four copper-
coloured men in red wanted to throw him into a fiery furnace.'

'But that's dangerous, Jenny.'

'Dangerous, godmother?  My child is always dangerous, more or
less.  He might'--here the little creature glanced back over her
shoulder at the sky--'be setting the house on fire at this present
moment.  I don't know who would have a child, for my part!  It's
no use shaking him.  I have shaken him till I have made myself
giddy.  "Why don't you mind your Commandments and honour
your parent, you naughty old boy?" I said to him all the time.  But
he only whimpered and stared at me.'

'What shall be changed, after him?' asked Riah in a compassionately
playful voice.

'Upon my word, godmother, I am afraid I must be selfish next, and
get you to set me right